Sydney R1: (8) Belinda Bencic vs (Q) Mirjana Lucic-Baroni
After a disappointing early round exit at the Brisbane International, Belinda Bencic has been dealt a potentially dangerous first round opponent at the APIA International in Sydney. Belinda will face veteran Croatian qualifier Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. This is an interesting match-up given the extreme contrast in styles, the smart and consistent Bencic up against the powerful but inconsistent Lucic-Baroni.
Belinda Bencic had a disappointing week in Brisbane. Bencic made a wonderful start to the week, recording a convincing 6-1 6-2 victory over Sara Errani in the opening round at the Brisbane International. However Bencic’s tournament would end in the second round where she suffered a surprise 5-7 3-6 loss to American qualifier Samantha Crawford. Bencic was overpowered by the American in that match, struggling to deal with her young opponent’s big serve. Bencic will see her first round match against Lucic-Baroni in Sydney as a chance to improve on things she didn’t do well against Crawford given the similarity between the pair.
Mirjana Lucic-Baroni remains a threat to the world’s top players when she is on. That has been evident in recent years where she twice defeated Simona Halep early in a Grand Slam. Lucic-Baroni didn’t play any tennis in the first week of the year, but has come through the qualifying in draw in Sydney with a couple of good victories. Mirjana booked her spot in the main draw with victories over Arina Rodionova, Storm Sanders and Lucie Hradecka. A good set of wins for Mirjana.
The only previous encounter between the pair took place in Birmingham last year, it was Bencic who prevailed with a 7-5 6-3 victory.
You never quite know what to expect from Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, which is almost in complete contrast to the very consistent Belinda Bencic. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lucic-Baroni take a set off Bencic but ultimately I suspect the Swiss rising-star will be too solid and too smart for her Croatian opponent.