🇦🇺 Australian Open, R4 preview + prediction:
🇷🇴 (4) Simona Halep vs. 🇧🇪 (16) Elise Mertens
Simona Halep and Elise Mertens renew hostilities when they do battle at the fourth round stage at Melbourne Park on Monday. Halep is one of the favourites heading into the second week of the tournament but will be wary of her Belgian opponent given it was Mertens who emerged victorious in their most recent meeting.
Simona Halep moved through the first week in Melbourne without dropping a set. Halep’s first few matches had their complications, a 7/6 6/1 win over Jennifer Brady followed by a 6/2 6/4 win over Harriet Dart. Halep produced her most convincing performance in the third round where she smashed Yulia Putintseva 6/1 6/4. The reigning Wimbledon champion is seemingly in a good place right now and will be tough to beat from here.
Elise Mertens cruised through her first couple of matches at Melbourne Park. The 16th seed dropped just a combined 5 games through a 6/2 6/0 win over Danka Kovinic and a 6/3 6/0 win over Heather Watson. Mertens faced her biggest test in the third round where she required a roller-coaster 3 set match to get the better of Catherine Bellis, a 6/1 6/7 6/0 victory.
Halep holds a 2-1 head-to-head record over Mertens. It was Halep that won the first couple of matches between the pair, both straight set victories where the Romanian dropped just 3 games in each match. Mertens flipped the script in their most recent match, a 3/6 6/4 6/3 victory in the Doha final last year.
I’m going to side with Halep here. I think this is generally a good match-up for Halep. Halep crushed Mertens in their first few matches; it took an inspired performance by Mertens to defeat Halep in Doha. Mertens needs to play at her very best, over a long period of the match to have success in this match-up. Halep isn’t going to give the match away, Mertens needs to be able to hit through Halep, that will not be easy on a fairly slow hard court. Halep has more margin to her shots which gives her the edge in a match-up that will feature a lot of extended rallies given the movement and defensive abilities of both.