Ukraine vs United States: Elina Svitolina vs Serena Williams
Serena Williams will begin her 2016 season on Monday when she comes up against Elina Svitolina of the Ukraine at the Hopman Cup in Perth. Serena dominated the tour in 2016, coming agonizingly close to winning all four Grand Slams. Serena will be determined to once again dominate at the Grand Slam level and claim another Olympic gold medal in Brazil in 2016.
Serena made a sluggish start to her 2015 season at the Hopman Cup, the American used the tournament as a genuine warm-up and ended up losing 3 of her 4 matches at the event. It turned out to be a good preparation for Serena as she went on to win the Australian Open for the first time since 2010. It will be interesting to see if Serena takes a similarly relaxed approach to the Hopman Cup in 2016.
Elina Svitolina continued her rise up the rankings in 2015 and is expected to continue to climb in season 2016. This will be the first time a Ukrainian team has taken part in the event for 21 years. Svitolina will see her clash with Serena Williams as a real opportunity to claim her maiden victory over the world number 1.
Serena has won all 3 previous encounters between the pair, including a 6-4 6-3 victory at the semi-final stage in Cincinnati last year in their most recent clash. This looks like a good opportunity for Elina to pick up a victory over Serena given the American’s approach to the tournament last year. Svitolina is the type of players that will always give her all and will be a tough opponent for Serena in her first match of the year. Serena is usually quite rusty in her very first match of the season, an upset looks possible.
Prediction: Elina Svitolina to defeat Serena Williams in 3 sets
Great Britain vs France: Heather Watson vs Caroline Garcia
Heather Watson and Caroline Garcia enter 2016 at a very similar stage in their careers. Both have shown that they have potential to compete with the very best players in the world, however both have been unable to make a major impact at the Grand Slam level and at other big events on a consistent basis. Both Heather and Caroline will be looking to change that in 2016, they will look to use the Hopman cup to gain much needed momentum heading into the first Grand Slam of the year in Melbourne.
Heather Watson has won both of the previous encounters between the pair, including an epic 1-6 6-3 8-6 victory at Wimbledon last year in their most recent clash. However, I think it will be third time lucky for Garcia on Monday, she will finally pick up a victory over Watson.