Victoria Azarenka vs Sloane Stephens
When the unseeded players were randomly placed at the Australian Open draw ceremony all eyes were immediately drawn to lines 29 and 30. A mouthwatering first round matchup between two time champion Victoria Azarenka and rival Sloane Stephens.
This will be the third year in a row that Vika and Sloane will face off in Melbourne. It was just two years ago that Azarenka and Stephens met in the Semi-Finals in Melbourne, a match infamous for Azarenka taking a controversial medical time out. Last year the two met in the fourth round, Azarenka prevailed in straight sets on both occasions.
Both Vika and Sloane had disappointing results in the lead up to the years first Grand Slam.
Vika suffered a heartbreaking first round loss to Karolina Pliskova in Brisbane, going down 6-4 6-7 6-4 in an epic 3 hour match. Azarenka was emotional as she walked off Pat Rafter Arena, the loss confirming she would be unseeded in Melbourne.
As a two time defending champion, there is no doubt that Vika enjoys the conditions in Melbourne. Despite being unseeded and having an extremely difficult draw no one should rule out the Belarusian. Vika thrives under pressure and would love to prove her critics wrong over the next fortnight.
Sloane Stephens has already suffered two disappointing losses in 2015. In Auckland Sloane was knocked out in the second round by Lauren Davis whilst a week later in Hobart, Sloane was thumped by Heather Watson in the second round. Despite these poor losses, there is still reason for Sloane to be optimistic as she consistently performs well at the Grand Slam level.
The only two meetings between the two were their encounters at the Australian Open over the past two years. Although Vika prevailed in straight sets on both occasions, Sloane did provide strong resistance especially in their 2013 semi-final encounter.
I’m going to pick Vika to knock Sloane out of the Australian Open for a third year in a row, I think Vika matches up well against Sloane. It’s just too hard to see Vika being knocked out in the opening round of her most successful tournament. I think Vika will rise to the occasion, she has proved that she thrives under pressure and should be fit and ready to go after a week training in Melbourne.
Prediction: Victoria Azarenka to defeat Sloane Stephens in three sets