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This is quite an interesting match-up between two plucky veterans, who have probably left their best days on tour behind them. Although not a match up for the purists, with Hsieh’s use of a double-handed forehand and Errani’s erratic serving yips, I feel it might be a favourable one for the punters siding with Hsieh to win without losing a set here.
Errani, who is long gone from the top 100, has had a good start to this year qualifying for this year’s Aussie Open and seeing off accomplished players Qiang Wang and Venus Williams in the early rounds. Venus was severely hampered by injury though, so it proved a walk in the park for Errani to reach the third-round.
However, it probably isn’t the ideal preparation to face the unrelenting Hsieh. She made light work of Bianca Andreescu in straight sets in the previous round proving her penchant for an upset, it being her eighth victory against a top 10 player in the past four years. Her great record against the top players is an ode to her strong mentality and I’d fancy her in a battle of wills over someone who often endures a mental battle to merely serve the ball.
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One of the many mouth-watering ties in the men’s draw on Friday brings two promising young guns together. The two friends will no doubt be extremely familiar with each other’s games and come face-to-face for the third time in a Grand Slam.
Shapovalov leads the overall head-to-head on tour at 3-1, with Auger Aliassime’s sole success coming on clay. I imagine the two highly ranked compatriots will leapfrog each other numerous times in the rankings over the coming decade, but there is no reason to believe Shapovalov won’t improve his record here. Shapovalov has had an impressive start to the Australian Open, getting through a most difficult first-round tie with Jannik Sinner. Sinner had just claimed an ATP title last week, so to knock him off his stride in Round 1 is an impressive bit of form.
Prior to this Shapovalov was involved in the ATP Cup the week before and while losing both matches, he made no show of himself taking a set off Alexander Zverev – only losing via a final set tie break. The other match was a respectable loss to Novak Djokovic 7-5,7-5. Felix Auger-Aliassime also kept busy himself last week making a run to the final of the ATP Murray River Open, however, he fell in the final to tour maiden Daniel Evans in straight sets and didn’t really have any hugely noteworthy results.
Before that his form was so-so anyway and he seems a bit off the form which made him rocket up the rankings in 2019. Even still, while in this red-hot form they met in the US Open that year and Shapovalov had no problem dismissing his friend in straight sets. It’s worth siding with Shapovalov to win with a bit of breathing room in the handicap market this time round too.
It’s hard to remember a more impressive maiden Slam success in recent times than Iga Swiatek’s procession to take the French Open title last September. The Polish sensation rampaged through the field without dropping a set and very little games at all in fact. No wonder her opponents found it difficult to take a set when she claimed a 6-1 set scoreline in all but one of her straight-sets victories in Rolland Garros. I think dominant is the word.
I don’t believe Swiatek would have wanted to stop playing tennis in that form, but such is the turn of events that her next outing was at last week’s Gippsland Trophy – where she lost a set to the 104th ranked Kaja Juvan and fell to Ekaterina Alexandrova in straight sets in the next round.
It might be just a case of shedding some rust as she has reached the third round this week with relative ease, but I’m willing to take a chance that she won’t reach the next round with such ease. Going back to last year Fiona Ferro herself had some success winning WTA Palermo prior to the French Open, where she fell to Swiatek’s eventual opponent in the final Sofia Kenin.
Ferro has started this week impressively also defeating Katerina Siniakova in Round 1 and then knocking out 17th seed Elena Rybakina in straight sets. While it might be a bit much to expect her to knock off the most recent slam champion, I do expect Fierro to make Swiatek sweat and take a set.
* All match times are approximate as some games may be dependent on the finish time of the match scheduled on court before them.
Friday 01:00 Su-Wei Hsieh v Sara Errani: Hsieh to win 2-0
Friday 08:00 Denis Shapovalov v Felix Auger Aliassime: Shapovalov (-3.5) Game Handicap
Friday 10:00 Fiona Ferro v Iga Swiatek: Ferro to win at least one set
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