We roll into day 2 of the 2014 Australian Open, where players are set to compete on one of the hottest days in the tennis calendar. Here, I provide my pick of the matches on the day.
Andreas Seppi (24) vs. Lleyton Hewitt
Lleyton Hewitt comes into the tournament on the back of a fantastic win in Brisbane, where he beat Roger Federer in the final. The crowd will be behind the Australian, in what could possibly be his last appearance at his home grand slam. Seppi has an evenly split 3-3 record with Hewitt, and the 24th seed certainly can’t be underestimated. Nevertheless, Hewitt will enjoy playing in the hot conditions, and his greater endurance allied with the support of his home fans should see him through in four sets.
Rafael Nadal (1) vs. Bernard Tomic
Rafael Nadal comes into the Australian Open in ominous form after winning in Doha. By his high standards, Nadal has probably underachieved at Melbourne, winning once in 2009 and finishing runner-up in 2012. He certainly looks determined to improve that record this year, and he will start his quest with a match against local man Bernard Tomic. These two met in the third round in 2011, with Nadal winning in straight sets despite Tomic leading 4-1 in the second set. Tomic certainly has the power in his game to ruffle Nadal’s feathers, but the world no.1’s greater variety coupled with his resilience should enable him to overcome a tricky opponent.
Francesca Schiavone vs. Dominika Cibulkova (20)
Schiavone is one of the dangerous floaters in the women’s draw, and while the Italian veteran has dropped a few levels since her fantastic performances in 2010 and 2011, she still possesses trickery that can make life difficult for her opponents. Cibulkova is a top twenty player who is comfortable flying under the radar. The Slovakian is extremely consistent from the baseline, and the faster conditions on the outside courts should suit her even if Schiavone comes to the net. Furthermore, the lack of humidity will hinder Schiavone’s slice as it won’t generate the required spin and dip in dry conditions. All signs point to a win for Cibulkova in an interesting match.
Ryan Harrison vs. Gael Monfils (25)
Harrison has yet to break through, despite seemingly being on the verge for the past few years. The young American certainly has a good all-round game, but his physical preparation has been questioned in the grand slams. Gael Monfils hasn’t always enjoyed playing in Australia, and if Harrison can consistently hit the winners he is capable of, an upset is possible. However, if the match is drawn into a fourth or fifth set, Monfils’ experience and fitness will give him the edge.
Marinko Matosevic vs. Kei Nishikori (16)
Nishikori is the clear favourite in this match, as he leads the head-to-head 2-0 after a couple of easy victories against Matosevic in 2013. Nishikori has targeted an entry into the top ten in 2014, and has interestingly hired Michael Chang as his coach. Matosevic had a fantastic second half of 2013, and on the back of the home support, he will certainly come out with all guns blazing. The attacking approach might help Matosevic get a set, but Nishikori should be able to use his excellent defensive skills to ride out the storm, and go through in four sets.