The 2020 Australian Open women’s draw is out and we’ve picked out five first round showdowns that are not to be missed!
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?? vs Coco Gauff ??
H2H: Gauff leads 1-0
2019 | Wimbledon R128 | Gauff 6-4 6-4
Probably the most anticipated Round 1 match in both the men’s and women’s draw as 15-year-old phenom Gauff takes on seven-time major champion Venus in a rematch of their opening round Wimbledon clash from last year.
Gauff shot to global superstardom on the back of that victory, going on to make the fourth round, while she also picked up her first WTA title in Linz and made the third round at the U.S. Open to cap an extraordinary rise into the top 100. Sensationally, Gauff is favourite to win again in Melbourne, with Venus withdrawing from Brisbane and Adelaide in the lead-up to the Australian Open with injury.
Simona Halep ??  vs Jennifer Brady ??
H2H: Halep leads 1-0
2019 | Rogers Cup R32 | Halep 4-6 7-5 7-6(5)
Halep knew just how dangerous Brady can be even before the American upset World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty in Brisbane last week, with the Romanian barely surviving their showdown in Canada last year, prevailing by the skin of her teeth in a final set tiebreak.
Back working with Darren Cahill this season, Halep – who was runner-up at the Australian Open in 2018 – has been working hard in preparation for this tournament, but this is one of the toughest draws she could have received. Brady has clearly done a lot of work in the off-season, improving her serve and movement considerably. The American knows she can take down the best – can she do it on the biggest stage?
Donna Vekic ??  vs Maria Sharapova ??
H2H: Sharapova leads 1-0
2018 | French Open R64 | Sharapova 7-5 6-4
All of the seeds would have been nervously scanning the draw hoping to avoid the former Australian Open and World No. 1, but Vekic is the unlucky player who must confront Sharapova in the opening round.
Yes, it’s true that Sharapova has been a shadow of her former self since returning from her doping ban, but the Russian still has a bit of an aura to her and is someone top seeds don’t want to face from the very start. Vekic has done well over the last couple of seasons to establish herself around the top 20 and if she serves well, she’s in with a strong shot to survive, especially if Sharapova continues to struggle behind her own delivery with her persistent shoulder problems…
Karolina Pliskova ??  vs Kristina Mladenovic ??
H2H: Level at 2-2
2017 | Dubai R32 | Mladenovic 6-2 6-4
2016 | Fed Cup World Group | Pliskova 6-3 4-6 16-14
2015 | Birmingham SF | Pliskova 6-2 7-6(6)
2014 | Moscow R32 | Mladenovic 6-3 7-5
Pliskova, for me, struggles to find her best tennis when it matters most (no Grand Slams or Premier Mandatory titles so far speaks to that), and she has an extremely tough opening round at the Australian Open against former top 10 player Mladenovic.
I think Pliskova played some of her best tennis in the semi-finals in Melbourne last year against Naomi Osaka, but she’s going to have to reproduce that sort of level from the get-go if she’s going to reach the business stages again. Mladenovic finished 2019 on the highest of highs as she beat World No. 1 Barty to win the Fed Cup for France over Australia and it will be interesting to see if that triumph can help propel her back to her best tennis – if it does, Pliskova will need to be on guard…
Serena Williams ??  vs Anastasia Potapova ??
H2H: Never played
All eyes will be on Serena as she once again begins her quest for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title at the Australian Open. The legendary American, who went down to Pliskova in the quarter-finals last season, had the perfect warm-up to the Australian Open in Auckland, winning her first title in three years at the ASB Classic.
Serena has proven she doesn’t need matches to make major finals, so winning a title in the lead-up can only mean she’s going to even tougher to beat. Potapova is no stranger to beating Grand Slam champions in the first round of majors – just ask Angelique Kerber – and the Russian should view this as a fantastic chance to swing freely, use her firepower and try to catch Serena cold in what could turn into an intriguing opening round.