WTA Tour: Australian Open Selected Women's Thrid Round Matches Preview

Tennis player holds racquet

Our tennis expert previews two of the more intriguing third-round fixtures from the women's draw of the Australian Open. 

Simona Halep 4/10 vs Venus Williams 33/20
Simona Halep has endured an intriguing reign as World Number One, especially over the course of the last few months. The Romanian finally got that massive Grand Slam monkey off her back in Paris last season, but it’s hardly been rainbows and butterflies since then. She reached the third round at Wimbledon before an excellent victory in Canada and an appearance in the final of Cincinnati. But injury and poor form saw her fail to win a single match the whole year. She also lost to Barty in the opening round of the Sydney Invitational. So it’s fairly safe to assume that Halep’s confidence was not exactly soaring prior to this event. And two gruelling three-set nail-biters have hardly assuaged the general feeling that she may be slightly undercooked this year. Having said that, she did reach last year’s final and has that Grand Slam confidence in her locker now.

Seven-time Grand Slam Champion Venus Williams has been relegated to being somewhat of a by-line in the great Serena Williams story. That was exacerbated by a poor 2018 campaign. I’m inclined to look past that owing to her brilliant exploits in 2017. I believe her particular fitness issues were perhaps heightened by an excellent 2017 campaign. Venus is a two-time finalist here, including as recently as 2017. She always possesses the capacity to elevate her game during these Grand Slam occasions. She showed some signs of life on the hardcourts last season, reaching the semi-finals of Indian Wells and the quarter-finals of Miami. She also comes into this event in reasonable form having reached the quarter-finals in Auckland.

This will be the sixth meeting between these icons of women’s tennis. Venus leads the head-to-head 3-2, though Halep actually possesses the last two victories. I just have the feeling that Venus could pull off a major upset here. Yes, she has also laboured thus far, but Halep’s form has been frankly abysmal for months. And then you have to factor in Halep’s recent injury concerns. I just see decent value in 33/20 for Williams. 

Elise Mertens 21/20 | Madison Keys 13/20
This is a slightly different contest, with both players serenely progressing through the initial phases of the competition. American Madison Keys has become a regular fixture in the latter stages of Grand Slam events. Just last year she managed to reach the semi-finals of both the French and US Open- highlighting her versatility on multiple surfaces. She has perhaps failed to convert that Grand Slam potential into more sustained year-round success. Keys was a semi-finalist here back in 2015 and reached the quarter-final stage last time out. She beat Potapova and Aiava in straight sets and will be looking to add to her hardcourt repertoire: she reached the 2017 US Open Final at Flushing Meadows.

Elise Mertens rose from relative obscurity last season with a devastating performance here in Melbourne. She blazed her way into the semi-final during a tournament that celebrated unheralded runs on both sides of the draw. Mertens breezed past Gasparyan and Schmiedlova in the opening stages, though this will prove a far more taxing assignment. Mertens is coming off a decent quarter-final run at the Sydney International and will be hoping to replicate some of her early season form from last year. Outside of her Melbourne run, she claimed the Morocco Open and Samsung Open titles. She also reached the fourth round of the French. Her season faded out somewhat, though back-to-back quarter-finals in Cincinnati and Canada hint at her hardcourt abilities

This will only be the second time that these two have ever met, with Keys emerging victorious in straight sets back in 2017. Despite Mertens’ slightly loftier seeding, I really think that Keys is the overwhelming favourite here. Her recent Grand Slam pedigree is impeccable and I think 31/20 for her to win 2-0 has some value. 

Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.net

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