WILL EVANS’ daily preview serves up Australian Open tips for big gun Aryna Sabalenka’s first-round clash with homegrown underdog Storm Sanders.
History: Played 1: Sabalenka 1 V Sanders 0
Last meeting: Perth Open, 2016: Sabalenka d Sanders 6-3 4-6 6-2
Final Thoughts: Second seed Aryna Sabalenka opens her 2022 Australian Open campaign against Aussie wild card Storm Sanders.
But the Belarusian powerhouse arrives in Melbourne in scratchy form. She lost her first-round matches in both Adelaide warm-up events – to Kaja Juvan and Rebecca Peterson, respectively – with both matches characterised by dreadful serving performances. She dished up 39 double-faults across the two matches.
There is no doubting Sabalenka’s ability though. After collecting a swag of WTA titles, the 23-year-old produced career-best runs at all four majors in 2021. She made it the fourth round of the Australian Open, the third round of the French Open, and the Wimbledon and US Open semi-finals.
The 27-year-old Sanders is currently ranked 132nd in the world and has never cracked the top-100. A doubles specialist, she is winless in five Grand Slam first-round matches and has not appeared at the Australian Open in singles since 2016.
Sanders dipped out in the opening round of both Adelaide tournaments, taking a set off Elena Rybakina before going down to Jasmine Paolini in two.
The pair met in Perth in 2016, when a 17-year-old Sabalenka grafted out a three-set victory.
Plenty of pundits have circled this match for a potential upset – a tantalising prospect with Sanders a $3.42 outsider.
Sabalenka has the yips and must improve on serve to advance. But talent-wise, there’s a significant gulf between these two. I’m backing the world No.2 to click into gear and take this comfortably.
AUSTRALIAN OPEN TIPS
|Sloane Stephens V Emma Radacanu||Result – Stephens @ $1.95|
|Marketa Vondrousova V Priscilla Hon||Games Handicap – Hon +5.5 @ $1.95|
|Maddison Inglis V Leylah Fernandez||Total Games – Under 18.5 @ $1.85|