Day 2 of the Australian Open saw a mixture of titanic tussles and heat-induced retirements. Unfortunately for the players, the forecast for day 3 is also extremely hot. That being said, there are an assortment of good matches to look forward to on Wednesday.
Na Li (4) vs. Belinda Bencic
On paper, Bencic is no match for the two time Australian open runner-up. However, this match does offer a nice contrast between experience and youth. Li would dearly like to win an Australian Open after coming so close on two occasions, especially when she dominated the first half of last year’s final. With her forehand in fine fettle, Li was extremely efficient in the first round, while Bencic defeated veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm in the first round in a tough three-setter. The 16-year old Swiss has drawn inevitable comparisons with Martina Hingis, and should provide glimpses of an exciting future in an entertaining match against the fourth seed.
Samantha Stosur (17) vs. Tsvetana Pironkova
Despite Stosur having a 3-0 head-to-head record against Pironkova, this match will be a test for the former US Open champion. The Australian will have all the support she needs, but Pironkova can be an extremely infuriating opponent. The Bulgarian doesn’t possess a single big shot in her armoury, but that hasn’t stopped her from chipping and slicing her way to the quarters and semis at Wimbledon. Stosur clearly has the better game, and should proceed to the third round as long as she doesn’t commit too many unforced errors against the dangerous Pironkova.
Flavia Pennetta (28) vs. Monica Puig
Another match pitting a veteran against and up-and-comer sees Flavia Pennetta take on the tenacious Monica Puig. Pennetta clearly has experience and variety on her side, but if Puig gets into a rhythm from the baseline, she could possibly hit her way to an upset due to the prevailing conditions making the courts faster. An interesting encounter that could simply come down to how the players deal with the heat.
Sam Querrey vs. Ernests Gulbis (23)
A match between two players who probably should be ranked higher than they are at the current stage of their careers. Querrey was seen by many to be more talented than his compatriot John Isner, but a combination of personal issues and shaky confidence have resulted in a stagnant career so far. Gulbis has had the makings of a top ten player for the past three years, but the Latvian tends to give up too easily when the going gets tough. The 23rd seed has a fantastic all-round game that ideally should see him through. However, Querrey has the bigger serve, and if he can get Gulbis into a few tie-breaks, an upset is certainly on.
Nikolay Davydenko vs. Richard Gasquet (9)
A few years ago this match-up wouldn’t be out of place at the end of season Masters. In stead Davydenko and Gasquet go up against each other in the second round of a grand slam. While Davydenko still has remarkable consistency from the baseline, the Russian’s movement isn’t as good as it was in his prime, when he was number four in the world. Gasquet had an excellent second half of 2013, reaching the semis at the US Open and qualifying for the London Masters. In possession of one of the best single-handed backhands the game has seen, Gasquet will look to build on his success in 2014, and with Sergi Bruguera now in his corner, the Frenchman should be able to blend tactical discipline with his fantastic shot-making ability to progress into the next round.
Tommy Robredo (17) vs. Julien Benneteau
An exciting match between two veterans pits Robredo against Benneteau. Robredo had a heartwarming comeback in 2013, after the Spaniard suffered injury problems in 2011 and 2012. After making the quarters at the Roland Garros and Flushing Meadows last year, Robredo will be looking to have another good run in Melbourne. However, Benneteau will be a tricky opponent. With the outside courts playing really fast, the Frenchman could make this an unpredictable contest as his serve-and-volley style might deny Robredo the time to hit big shots from the baseline.