Australian Open 2023: Popcorn matches from the women’s singles draw
The 111th edition of the Australian Open is nearly upon us, and the women’s draw has thrown up some intriguing ‘popcorn’ matches for fans to enjoy across Monday and Tuesday.
Here are four of the matches we, at Tennishead, are most looking forward to:
Victoria Azarenka (24) vs Sofia Kenin
With 2022 champion Ash Barty retiring last year, it leaves only two previous Australian Open champions in the draw, Victoria Azarenka and Sofia Kenin. Kenin is currently on the injury comeback trail after a difficult couple of years and has seen some positive results to begin 2023, reaching the Hobart semi-final.
The pair have played on two occasions, each having a win a-piece, but that only tells half the story. Kenin won their first clash in a three-set battle in Acapulco, but was completely humbled when they played in Rome, losing 6-0 6-0 to the Belarusian.
There are currently over 250 places between them in the rankings, but it will likely play out to be much closer than that when the two take to Margaret Court Arena on Monday.
Iga Swiatek (1) vs Jule Niemeier
It could be argued that every match involving world No.1 Iga Swiatek is a ‘popcorn’ match, but this head-to-head has recent history that adds to the intrigue.
Swiatek’s only contest with Jule Niemeier was in the fourth round of the 2022 US Open, and the German pushed her opponent right to the wire. Niemeier was up a set and a break, before Swiatek mounted a fightback to win the match and then went on to win the title.
Niemeier, the No.68, seems to enjoy the big occasion as she reached the quarter-final at Wimbledon last year and would have a significantly better ranking had their been points available.
The Pole is the favourite to take home her fourth Grand Slam title, and will begin her campaign when her and Niemeier kick off the first night session on the Rod Laver Arena, on Monday.
Elise Mertens (26) vs Garbine Muguruza
Garbine Muguruza is a two-time Grand Slam champion, and was the Australian Open runner-up in 2020, but she could not feel any further away from that at the moment. The Spaniard is on a four-match losing streak and has faced some devastating losses over the past year.
The epitomy of this was in her first match of 2023, when it looked like Muguruza was turning over a new leaf, going 6-0 5-2 up against Bianca Andreescu, only to lose in agonising fashion.
Elise Mertens, who reached the Australian Open semi-final in 2018, is the seed in this contest, and despite having never beaten Muguruza, will likely head into their match on Tuesday as the favourite.
Alize Cornet vs Leylah Fernandez
French flair will be on show, on Tuesday, when Alize Cornet takes on Canada’s Leylah Fernandez in a match that is likely to be full of variety. Both are unseeded, and have previous success at hardcourt majors.
Cornet achieved her best Grand Slam performance in Melbourne last year, when she beat Simona Halep to reach the quarter-finals. Fernandez is yet to find her feet down under, not making it past the first round in three attempts, but was part of that historic all-teenager US Open final with Emma Raducanu, in 2021, to which she fell just short.
The only previous meeting between Cornet and Fernandez came just after that US Open at Indian Wells, where the Canadian got the better of Cornet in straight sets. The pair shared the court again at Indian Wells again, in 2022, this time as doubles partners, making it all the way to the semi-finals.
Read >> World’s best tennis magazine