Hobart R1: Eugenie Bouchard vs Bethanie Mattek-Sands
Perhaps the most exciting first round match-up at the Hobart International sees one of the tournaments star attractions Eugenie Bouchard come up against Bethanie Mattek Sands. Eugenie is still trying to find her range after spending the final months of 2015 on the sidelines. It will be important for the Canadian to play another couple of matches before heading to Melbourne, however this is unlikely to be an easy match for Eugenie given she has lost to the American in their two previous meetings.
Eugenie Bouchard made a reasonable start to the season last week in Shenzhen. The Canadian rising-star picked up victories over Donna Vekic and Nicole Gibbs on route to the quarter-final stage where she lost to Timea Babos in straight sets. Bouchard still has a lot to work on and is certainly not anywhere near her best, her best level of tennis will come with time, strong results in Hobart could be key for Bouchard before heading to Melbourne.
Bethanie Mattek-Sands is always a dangerous opponent, however her inconsistency and constant injury problems have meant her ranking is always bellow where it could be. The American has been able to remain relatively injury-free over the last couple of years and is therefore well positioned to start playing some of her best tennis. However Bethanie did make a poor start to her 2016 season in Auckland last week, suffering 6-3 4-6 3-6 loss to Kirsten Flipkens in the first round.
Bethanie Mattek-Sands has a perfect 2-0 head-to-head record over Eugenie. Both matches were on a hard court and both were in early 2014, first at the Sydney International and then again in Doha. Both were in straight sets.
Bouchard will see this match as a good opportunity to avenge her previous losses to Mattek-Sands. I believe Eugenie will get the job done here but it will not be easy because Bethanie is a tricky customer and clearly has a winning formula to beat the Canadian. Expect a determined Bouchard to come through this one.