by: Ben Stevens
Day 1 of the Australian Open is in the books, and what a day it was. We saw an upset in the first marquee match (sorry Simona, we hardly knew ye), the birth of a new Aussie hero in 17-year-old Alex De Minaur, and Jerzy Janowicz at his Jerzy Janowicz-iest. It was great first round action, and day 2 promises more of the same.
Unlike Monday however, tennis fans won’t have to go too far beyond Rod Laver Arena to find the day’s most intriguing tennis action. Two of the games’ biggest names face tricky first-round tests, while a third is set for an undoubtedly entertaining encounter, so read on for a look at the three to see for day 2 of the Australian Open.
Serena Williams (USA)  v Belinda Bencic (SUI) – 2nd on Rod Laver Arena
The match with undeniably the biggest buzz of the first round, Williams’ campaign to break Steffi Graf’s open-era record of 22 singles titles could come immediately under fire against the 19-year-old Bencic. A disappointing showing in the Auckland 1st round means Williams comes in under a cloud of uncertainty, which far from ideal against any opponent, let alone against the former world no. 7 Bencic. When the two last met in the 2015 Toronto semis, the outcome was an explosive encounter that Bencic won in a dramatic 6-4 third, showing impressive feel to withstand many of Serena’s heaviest shots, while hitting through her backhand with a ruthless efficiency. We could very well be in for a repeat of that match… or we could get a fired-up Serena who devours Bencic’s soul. Either way, you don’t want to miss it.
Milos Raonic (CAN)  v Dustin Brown (GER) – 2nd on Margaret Court Arena
If there’s a first-round match most likely to be worthy of the Australian Open’s festival-like atmosphere, it might just be this one. Dustin Brown may only have two first-round exits on his resume, but such is the German’s flair that he could make an Andy Murray press conference entertaining, and that’s established him firmly as a fan favourite. Whether Brown keeps it close is almost beside the point, as Raonic will be looking to make a statement of intent after getting a whiff of grand slam-glory in 2016. Expect both players to be constantly on the attack, and that means plenty of fireworks.
Novak Djokovic (SRB)  v Fernando Verdasco (ESP) – 1st match, night session on RLA
It’s not often you’ll get a first-round matchup for any of the big 4 actually worth staying up for – as they’ll usually spend about as much time on-court as they do chatting with Jim Courier – but this one is an exception. Owner of five unconverted match points against Djokovic two weeks ago in Doha, Verdasco could make for a very uncomfortable first-round opponent indeed. Last year Djokovic was an extremely slow starter in Melbourne, not really showing any title-winning form until the quarter finals, and a repeat performance would be extremely dangerous against a man who started the same tournament by upsetting Rafael Nadal. Verdasco lives for big matches, and should be able to somewhat neutralise Djokovic’s backhand with his massive lefty forehand, forcing the Serb to play a bit outside his comfort zone and get more aggressive elsewhere. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Verdasco steal a set or two, but if Djokovic rolls, the rest of the field should look out.