Australian Open 2016 Day 7 Preview: Will Bencic derail Sharapova?

published: Jan, 23, 2016

by: Tom Cochrane

by: Tom Cochrane

Third seed Garbine Muguruza was the biggest casualty on Day 6 at Melbourne Park, the Spaniard succumbing to Czech player Barbora Strycova in straight sets in an unusually subdued performance.

Day 6 Recap

There was no such trouble for two-time champion Victoria Azarenka, the Belarusian continuing her red-hot form with a 6-1 6-1 thrashing of Japan’s Naomi Osaka. Madison Keys overcame a third set deficit and the mid-match collapse of Nigel Sears, the coach of her opponent Ana Ivanovic, to book her spot in the round 16, as Chinese qualifier Zhang also progressed to the round of 16.

Other winners on the women’s side on Day 6 included German seed Angelique Kerber, who overcame American Madison Brengle, and 2015 semi-finalist Ekaterina Makarova, who upset the higher ranked Karolina Pliskova.

In the men’s tournament, Stan Wawrinka outpointed big-serving Lukas Rosol, as Bernard Tomic accounted for countryman John Millman. Andy Murray was too good for Joao Sousa, collecting a 4 set win, as Milos Raonic overcame the in-form Viktor Troicki in an impressive performance.

John Isner was too strong for Feliciano Lopez in the battle of two big-servers, as Gael Monfils, David Ferrer and Russian Andrey Kuznetsov also booked their spots in the second week of the tournament.

Matches of the Day – Day 7

1. Belinda Bencic vs. Maria Sharapova

I’m really looking forward to this clash between the up-and-coming Bencic, who shows maturity and strategic nous beyond her tender years, and Sharapova, who has pretty much done it all in a career spanning more than a decade on the WTA Tour.

Sharapova will look to dominate this match with her power game, but if Bencic can get the Russian out of court and off-balance, then I think the young Swiss player has a definite chance of causing an upset. Sharapova starts as the favourite but this is a real danger match for the fifth seed. Sharapova in 3.

2. Novak Djokovic vs. Gilles Simon

Gilles Simon does almost everything very well on a tennis court. The Frenchman is an adept mover around the court, a sweet timer of the ball and a deceptively crafty counterpuncher. But does he have the weapons to truly challenge the world’s best player?

Djokovic very rarely loses and when he does, it is either to someone else at the very top of the game, such as Federer or Murray, or someone who can actually blow the Serb off the court (refer to Djokovic’s 2015 losses to Wawrinka and Karlovic on this point). Accordingly, no matter how well Simon plays, I think Djokovic will find a way to get past the Frenchman. Djokovic in 3.

3. Roger Federer vs. David Goffin

Roger Federer will be firmly focused on a deep run in this year’s Australian Open after last year’s surprise third round exit at the hands of Andreas Seppi. The Swiss legend has already surpassed last year’s effort by dismissing Dimitrov in the round of 32, and I think he will look forward to this match-up with Goffin.

Much like Simon, Goffin is a talented player who doesn’t do much wrong on the court. But I don’t think he has the x-factor required to elevate himself to the very top tier of men’s tennis. Look for Federer to take control early and never relinquish his lead. Federer in 3.

4. Kei Nishikori vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

This should be a blockbuster clash between former Australian Open finalist Tsonga and former US Open finalist Nishikori. Both produce their best tennis on hard-courts, but Nishikori has been in better and more consistent form in recent years, notwithstanding Tsonga’s impressive run to the semi-finals at Roland Garros last year.

The mercurial Tsonga is truly capable of anything, but his recent injury concerns have to cause some doubts over his ability to last 5 sets against a player of Nishikori’s consistency and fitness. I’ll take the Japanese seed in the decider. Nishikori in 5.

5. Daria Gavrilova vs. Carla Suarez Navarro

Having beaten seeds Kvitova and Mladenovic in the tournament already, and with a parochial home crowd cheering her on, it would be foolish to set any limits as to what Daria Gavrilova can achieve at Melbourne Park this year.

Suarez Navarro is a tough opponent, however, and the Spaniard possesses one of the best one-handed backhands on the WTA Tour. Suarez Navarro has produced her best results to date on clay-courts, but she also has some impressive hard-court credentials to her name. No doubt Gavrilova will try her hardest, but I suspect Suarez Navarro will be too strong in the decider. Suarez Navarro in 3.

Put your house on: Serena Williams. I can’t see anything stopping the top seed from booking her spot in the second week of the tournament.

Upset alert: Tomas Berdych will need to be very wary of big-hitting Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut when the pair clash today.

Likely to go the distance: As noted above, I’m predicting a long one in the high-profile clash between Kei Nishikori and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow. In the meantime, you can follow all of the action on Twitter: @satelliteserve.

Tom Cochrane

I like to work the angles around the tennis court. Not afraid to take the pace off the ball, I also have an affinity with the occasional cheeky drop shot.

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