2020 Australian Open Week 1 Women’s Preview, Predictions, Long Shot R1 Picks
Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
It’s been a bummer summer down under: On the upside, Serena Williams ended a three-year title drought by winning in Auckland, and the leftovers of the Hopman Cup produced some exciting matches. The downside: No Hopman Cup, and the optics of players having to retire due to smoke from devastating bush fires at qualifying in Melbourne. It’s not a good look when you’re supposed to be in the business of protecting your hard assets, the players, by playing dumb during a natural disaster.
And that’s exactly what Tennis Australia has done. Perhaps the Australian tournaments have given Ozzies something to take their mind off of the daily troubles of worrying about their friends and loved ones. The Australian Open has dealt with the disaster on a reactionary basis, waiting for players to speak out before they do. My heart goes out to Australia and a Shake-My-Damn-Head goes out to Tennis Australia.
In the meantime, let’s turn the page on pre-Open action, get this major on and get this sport out of here so this country can get back to recovery.
Alas, the first “jewel” of the Grand Slam is upon us.Embed from Getty Images
Whether Serena William’s title in Auckland will break the floodgates here and get her back to Grand Slam glory remains to be seen. As close as she has been in New York in back-to back years tells me it’s been a cerebral condition and flat out, I expect to see her in the semifinals at worst.
Who’s quarter is this anyway?Embed from Getty Images
Naomi Osaka is the #3 seed, and she’ll be tested if she wants to reach the semis. After an opening round match against Marie Bouzkova, she’ll likely square off against Saisai Zhang before heading to the third round against one of Venus Williams, Coco Gauff, Sorana Cirstea or Barbora Strycova. I’ll predict that she’ll face Cirstea in R3 before falling to Serena Williams in the quarters.
Serena’s path is far more manageable than Osaka’s to win the section. After an opening round match against Anastasia Potapova, Williams may face Qiang Wang for a second round win. In the third round, I’ll go with Dayana Yastremska after surviving Johanna Konta in the second round. A win over Yastremska to reach the quarters is no easy feat, but Williams should prevail.
R4: Osaka d. Kenin
R4: Williams d. Yastremska
QF: Williams vs. Osaka
2020 Adelaide champion Ashleigh Barty has a surprisingly easy ride to the semifinals in her quarter. Her main challengers, Petra Kvitova and Madison Keys, face difficult early round contests and it will be impressive if Kvitova and Keys can even make it to the quarterfinals.
R4: Barty d. Riske
R4: Kvitova d. Linette
QF: Barty vs. Kvitova
Simona Halep’s section of the draw is also a glide path to the quarterfinals, provided she gets by the plucky Jen Brady in R1, which I expect. Belinda Bencic should face her in the quarters of what would shape up to be an upset free quarter of the draw, but I’m going with Kontaveit to upset her in the third round before Kontaveit loses to Sabalenka in the fourth round. Just a hunch here.
R4: Sabalenka d. Kontaveit
R4: Halep d. Muchova
QF: Halep vs. Sabalenka
Karolina Pliskova already has a trophy in the bag this year with a 3rd Brisbane title. That’s good for her because the draw is filled with spoilers. World #6 Elina Svitolina is the least of her problems should she reach the final.
Pliskova starts with the unpredictable Kristina Mladenovic. A second round match would see her facing the winner of the Siegemund-Vandeweghe contest. After that, she could hit a speed bump against Pavlyucheckova, Vondrousova, Giorgi, or even Kuznetsova.
R4: Bertens d. Svitolina
R4: Vondrousova d. Pliskova
QF: Vondrousova vs. Bertens
And finally, it’s time for a new segment called “Potentially Worthy Picks”. These are big upset bets with big paydays. Remember that this is for amusement purposes only, and if you actually place a real bet and it doesn’t win, please don’t flame me on twitter.
Potentially Worthy First Round Upset Picks
Viktoria Kuzmova (+300) d. Julia Goerges
Daria Kasatkina (+420) d. Madison Keys
Fiona Ferro (+180) d. Van Uytvanck
Sorana Cirstea (+140) d. Barbora Strycova