Australian Open 🇦🇺 R1 Preview
(18) 🇦🇺 Ashleigh Barty vs 🇧🇾 Aryna Sabalenka
A blockbuster opening round match at Melbourne Park on Tuesday sees two of the tours most promising young prospects go head-to-head for the very first time. Barty and Sabalenka both ended 2017 in the best form of their respective careers, both have started 2018 in good form. Barty reached the final in Sydney last week whilst Sabalenka reached back-to-back quarter-finals in Shenzhen and Hobart. Barty and Sabalenka both posses powerful games, it will be fascinating to see who comes up on top here.
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Ash Barty will be competing at the Australian Open as the number 1 ranked Australian woman for the first time. A lot of pressure and expectation comes with this title, it will be interesting to see how Barty handles herself. Barty brings good form into her home Grand Slam having reached the Sydney International final last week, Barty’s first final on Australian soil. Barty claimed wins over Cepede Royg, Perez, Strycova and Gavrilova before succumbing to Kerber in straight sets in the final.
Aryna Sabalenka is a player on the rise. At the age of 19, Sabalenka has already caught the attention of the tennis world over the last few months. Sabalenka has made a good start to the season, reaching back-to-back quarter-finals. The Belarussian beat Niculescu and Kovinic in straight sets before losing to Simona Halep in straight sets in Shenzhen. In Hobart, Sabalenka beat Bouchard and Zhang in straight sets before succumbing to Lesia Tsurenko in an uncompetitive 2 set loss. Sabalenka has a huge game, her best is extremely good but she is still trying to find the right balance on court.
This will be the first meeting between the pair.
Hobart International 🇦🇺🌧️ QF Preview
(5) 🇺🇦 Lesia Tsurenko vs 🇧🇾 Aryna Sabalenka
Lesia Tsurenko and Aryna Sabalenka will go head-to-head for the first time when they meet at the quarter-final stage of the Hobart International. Tsurenko and Sabalenka have both been impressive on route to the final 8 in Hobart, both have advanced to this stage of the tournament without dropping a set. This match-up will feature an interesting contrast in styles, the extreme, raw power of Sabalenka against the consistency and defensive skills of Tsurenko, who will win prevail?
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Lesia Tsurenko will look to emulate her run to the semi-final stage in Hobart last year as she enters this years quarter-finals. Tsurenko has won a couple of good matches over decent opponents in her first two matches this week. Tsurenko started the week with a hard-fought 7-6 6-2 win over Timea Babos before beating Yulia Putintseva quite easily 6-3 6-2. Tsurenko was able to adapt to two very different opponents, against Babos Tsurenko did well to counter-punch and force errors whilst against Putintseva, Tsurenko stepped up the aggression and dictated from the baseline.
Aryna Sabalenka has started 2018 in impressive fashion by reaching back-to-back quarter-finals. After reaching the quarter-finals in Shenzhen last week, Sabalenka has claimed a couple of strong straight set wins over Eugenie Bouchard and Shuai Zhang to reach the final. Sabalenka confirmed her quarter-final spot in Hobart by upsetting the top seeded Shuai Zhang 7-6 6-4. The Belarussian continues to show that she is one of the tours most exciting prospects, her huge game is capable of troubling most opponents.
It will be interesting to see how Tsurenko handles the power of Sabalenka in their first career meeting.
Hobart International 🇦🇺🌧️ R2 Preview
(1) 🇨🇳 Shuai Zhang vs 🇧🇾 Aryna Sabalenka
Top seeded Shuai Zhang faces a tough test in the second round of the Hobart International on Wednesday where she comes up against in-form Belarussian Aryna Sabalenka. This should be an exciting match-up between two very aggressive players. Sabalenka is one of the hottest players on tour right now, the fearless teenager continues to rise up the rankings and will relish the opportunity of the playing the top seed in Hobart. Will Sabalenka take another step forward or will the more experienced Zhang be too solid?
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Shuai Zhang has the strange title of being a top seed this week in Hobart, not a position the world number 35 is used to finding herself in. Zhang made a positive start to her Hobart campaign on Tuesday by defeating Poland’s Magda Linette in straight sets, a 7-5 6-3 victory.
Aryna Sabalenka has seemingly rolled into 2018 with the same dangerous form she ended the 2017 season. Sabalenka had a good week in Shenzhen to start the year, reaching the quarter-finals with 2 commanding wins before succumbing to Simona Halep quite handily. Sabalenka advanced to the second round in Hobart courtesy of 6-4 6-3 win over Eugenie Bouchard in what was a fairly messy match. Both players struggled behind their serve but Sabalenka was the more consistent and clinical of the two.
The only previous meeting between the pair ended in a 6-4 6-2 win for Zhang at an ITF event in 2016. Sabalenka has improved significantly since their last meeting, expect the Belarussian to give Zhang a far tougher test on Wednesday in Hobart.
Shenzhen Open, Quarter-Final Preview
(1) 🇷🇴 Simona Halep vs 🇧🇾 Aryna Sabalenka
A fascinating quarter-final clash at the Shenzhen Open sees the current world number 1, Simona Halep come up against Belarussian rising-star Aryna Sabalenka. Halep fought from a set down to defeat Ying-Ying Duan and advance to the final 8 in Shenzhen, the victory also confirmed that Halep will keep her number 1 ranking and head into the Australian Open as the top seed. Halep will face a strong test on Thursday against Sabalenka, the fearless 19-year-old has powered through the draw and has the weapons to trouble the Romanian.
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Simona Halep started her 2018 season in convincing fashion, beating Nicole Gibbs 6-4 6-1. Halep faced a much tougher test in the second round where she faced Ying-Ying Duan. Halep was on the back foot as the powerful Chinese player took the opening set by a single break of serve. Halep rallied to claim a 3-6 6-1 6-2 win, showing why she is number 1 in the world. Halep will face another dangerous, powerful opponent in the next round when she comes up against Aryna Sabalenka.
Aryna Sabalenka is now on a 7 match winning streak. Sabalenka ended the 2017 season on a high by winning the Mumbai 125K tournament. Sabalenka has picked up where she left off in 2017, Sabalenka opened her season with a commanding 6-4 6-4 win over Monica Niculescu, a good effort in her first meeting with Romanian. Sabalenka backed-up that win with a commanding 6-1 6-0 demolition of Danka Kovinic. Sabalenka is full of confidence at the moment, her fearless attitude means she is a danger to anyone, even the world number 1.
This will be the first career meeting between Halep and Sabalenka. Clearly Halep is the far more established player, the world number 1 will head into this match as a strong favourite. However, Sabalenka is not to be dismissed. The Belarussian has a powerful game and she will look to ambush Halep in Shenzhen.