This is an intriguing battle for round 2 between the speedy youngster Alex de Minaur and the wily veteran Richard Gasquet. I don’t see much between the two players based on recent form, with both having dispatched of their first-round opponents without losing a set.
Gasquet had the tedious task of dealing with the big-serving Ivo Karlovic, taking him to two tiebreakers which he eased through before finally taking the clinching set 6-1.
Similarly, De Minaur coasted through his tie against tour journeyman Andrej Martin with the minimum of fuss. What draws me to this pick is both players’ activity during the Covid break, with De Minaur having only played three competitive games since lockdown prior to this week and Gasquet keeping busy with the benefit of the Ultimate Tennis Showdown in France.
While you can take results there with a pinch of salt, given the unusual format, Gasquet did defeat some big names like Dominic Thiem and David Goffin while showing glimpses of the player who has been to three slam semi-finals.
While De Minaur certainly has the potential to surpass that achievement, like most young players, he can be a bit inconsistent and I think the price for Gasquet capitalising on that is attractive.
Another attractive proposition is the opportunity to get Ons Jabeur onside here. Over the last 12 months she has developed into quite formidable opposition rising and rising up the WTA rankings with some impressive results.
More recently though she has put decent tournament runs together. Teenage sensation Coco Gauff needed a deciding set to get past Jabeur in Lexington and last week in Cincinnati she beat another rising star in Leylah Fernandez before beating world number 14 Madison Keys and then Christina McHale in straight sets.
Ultimately she fell to eventual tournament winner Victoria Azarenka in straight sets, but not without pushing her all the way in a first set tie break. Ultimately though this is all signs of progression for the recently turned 26-year-old.
While Jabeur is certainly on an upwards trend, the same can’t be said for her 35-year-old opponent Kanepi who is now clinging on to number 100 in the rankings.
While she did impressively beat Katerina Siniakova in the opening round in straight sets I don’t think we will get an encore here. I think Jabeur is a cut above Kanepi these days and I’d fancy her to take this in 2.
This is without doubt the tie of the round, featuring 2 heavy-hitting compatriots going blow-for-blow for a place in the next round.
Azarenka reminded everybody that she is not one to be forgotten about in clinching last weeks WTA title, albeit without having to play a final with Naomi Osaka retiring. Nonetheless, it reminded us of what she’s capable of.
The market is finding it impossible to split the two but I think Aryna Sabalenka should be edging favouritism here. The world number 11 has been poor since the restart and Azarenka certainly trumps her on recent form with last week’s success. However, I still think Sabalenka can reach a higher level of play than her opponent.
They both faced each other at last year’s US Open with Sabalenka prevailing and I trust that the proposition of facing the first Belarusian woman to win a grand slam might lift her out of her recent rut of form.
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