By Jack Edward
Sooo three of the players from my last article have already suffered an early exit (Basilashvili, Kenin and Norrie) and some of the others are living precariously Down Under (Sabalenka, Pegula)…
I’d say I’ve started with a pretty decent strike-rate for once so I’m going to have another go!
This time I’m calling players that could get upset (competitively not emotionally… well, I guess I mean both) in the round of 64.
Karen Khachanov (28th seed): Like all Karens, Khachanov likes to make a mountain out of a molehill. He’s already played thirteen five-setters in his career and six of these have come to players ranked outside the top-50. Bonzi has won a ton of matches on the Challenger Tour but hasn’t quite made that teeny-tiny step up in level to contend consistently among the elite. Having served bombs against Peter Gojowczyk, is this finally his time, squeaking out a fifth set against Karen?!
Pablo Carreño Busta (19th seed): Yep this is brash… but hear me out. Like Bonzi, Griekspoor is a Challenger Tour ledge. The Dutchman has a few more tricks up his sleeve, in my opinion. The service delivery has historically been more potent than Bonzi’s (though maybe that’s changed over the off-season) and his forehand is…*woof* – don’t give him time or he will mess you up. Even on the run, he can be extremely dangerous. It’ll be interesting to see if PCB comes into this match with the right tactics because if he doesn’t, this could become very sticky.
Andy Murray (WC): I’m not actually worried about Andy but a word of warning on his next opponent nonetheless… Taro Daniel has improved his serve from last season, upping his T-serve delivery to over a 120mph average. This could be a problem for Andy if he’s not feeling it on return (e.g. his return performance v FAA at the 2020 US Open still haunts me). He’ll be ready for this serve, right? I don’t have to tweet Andy to tell him about it, right??? Here’s hoping for more of the below kind of serve he faced against Basilashvili…
Markéta Vondroušová (31st seed): Markéta Vondroušová should not be underestimated in Australia having made the fourth-round here last year. Her fabled drop-shot doesn’t have quite the same effect as it would on a natural surface however and I believe this will make all the difference against her next opponent, Ludmilla Samsonova. The Russian has the power on serve and the injection of pace required mid-rally to find a way through Vondroušová (Marketa loves an angled forehand) – if she’s in full flow, she won’t give the “the Drous” many opportunities to play her own game. Plus I had Samsonova down to make the quarters so…
Belinda Bencic (22nd seed): A true roll of the dice. A gamble on the chaos that is Amanda Anisimova’s game. It really wasn’t a tidy match against Hartono but I’m counting on her settling into the conditions. If she does, Anisimova’s one of the few players that can make an impact on Bencic’s backhand wing. Bencic’s last five losses alone (Badosa, Rybakina, Kontaveit, Samsonova, Raducanu) suggests players with at least one frightening weapon in their arsenal are able to turn Belinda blue. Don’t let me down AA!
Maria Sakkari (5th seed): Okay, hands up, this is a stretch… but here’s my reasoning.
- I’m honestly not sure if Sakkari’s first-round win against Maria (lol) would have done her any favours. Getting through a player with jenkie slices and chip-and-charge tendencies is a nice confidence booster but she might have walked away from that match feeling as though she’d played only a handful of ordinary patterns of play.
- Her next opponent is Qinwen Zheng. (This is a pretty iffy if but) If Zheng manages to land enough serves, her game from the back of the court could see her through. Sakkari’s game is fairly predictable, locking her opponents into tough-to-counter patterns of play – Zheng has the brawn to indeed counter. Also, though Zheng is erratic, not knowing what’s coming next could make Maria a little edgy…