AO R1: (4) Simona Halep vs. Jennifer Brady
Simona Halep begins her 2020 Australian Open campaign on day 2 against in-form American Jennifer Brady. It is Brady who brings the greater momentum into this opening round clash, Halep is certainly on upset alert. However, the Romanian is still one of the major contenders heading into this event and will be keen to make a statement in this first round encounter.
Halep arrives at Melbourne Park with a big question mark surrounding her current form. Halep holds a mediocre 8-8 win/loss record ever since winning her second Grand Slam title at Wimbledon last year. The world number 4 is short on match practise having competed in just 1 event prior to the first major of the year. Halep was in Adelaide last week where she defeated Ajla Tomljanovic in straight sets before being smashed by Aryna Sabalenka in straight sets at the quarter-final stage. Halep has had mixed fortunes in Melbourne in the past, in recent times she has played her way into the tournament nicely with a runner-up finish in 2018 and a fourth round appearance last year where she lost to Serena Williams in an epic.
Jennifer Brady tends to play her best tennis in Australia. Brady stormed through qualifying draw to reach the fourth round at Melbourne Park in 2017 and arrives in Melbourne on the back of a similar run to start her 2020 season. Brady came through 3 qualifying matches before upsetting Maria Sharapova and Ash Barty to reach the quarter-finals at the Brisbane International where she was ultimately defeated by Petra Kvitova in straight sets. That run in Brisbane a few weeks ago will surely give Brady confidence coming up against one of the best players in the world, especially her win over the world number 1, as will her previous match with Halep where she almost got the win.
Halep was pushed to her limits in the only previous clash between the pair, a 4-6 7-5 7-6 victory for the Romanian at the Rogers Cup last year.
I’m going to give Halep the benefit of the doubt here. Halep has by her own admission had a fantastic off-season and is heading into the first major of the year fresh and without too much pressure on her shoulders. Despite the close meeting between the pair in their previous match I think this is generally a good match-up for Halep. Halep was playing in her first match since the Wimbledon final when she laboured past Brady last year, if she can do it in those circumstances, she can do it here. Halep has the clear edge when the pair get into a neutral baseline exchange, Halep has stronger, more consistent groundstrokes off both sides. The courts in Melbourne are fairly gritty which will further aid Halep as she will be able to get into more rallies. If Halep can serve well, get a decent read on the Brady serve then she will win this match and win it well.
Prediction: Simona Halep to defeat Jennifer Brady in 2 sets
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