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PREVIEW: Selected ATP and WTA Sydney Tennis Classic Ro16 matches

Damien Kayat previews Ons Jabeur vs Petra Kvitova and Reily Opelka vs Jordan Thompson at the 2022 Sydney Tennis Classic.

Petra Kvitova - Sydney Tennis Classic
Image Copyright - Steve Haag Sports

Damien Kayat previews Ons Jabeur vs Petra Kvitova and Reily Opelka vs Jordan Thompson at the 2022 Sydney Tennis Classic.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

2022 WTA Tour/ATP Tour
WTA 500- ATP 250 Series
Sydney Tennis Classic
Sydney Olympic Park
Selected Round of 16 Matches- 12th January

Ons Jabeur 57/100 | Petra Kvitova 27/20

7th seed Ons Jabeur will be desperate to follow up an amazing 2021 campaign with another solid season. She created history in 2021, becoming the first Arab player- man or woman- to reach the top ten of the world rankings.

She also tied with Anett Kontaveit for most wins in 2021 (48). She won her first title at the Birmingham Open and also reached finals at the Charleston Open and Chicago.

The season really highlighted her ability to play tennis on all surfaces. Jabeur looked completely assured in her opening match of 2022, decimating Astra Sharma in straight sets.

She should also feel very comfortable playing in Australia. She enjoyed a massive breakthrough in Australia in 2020, reaching the quarterfinals of the Aussie Open. This made her the first Arab player in history to reach the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam.

But her 2nd assignment should theoretically be a lot tougher as she faces up against two-time Sydney winner Petra Kvitova.

31-year-old Czech star Petra Kvitova will be looking to bounce back after a disappointing 2021 season. She ended the year ranked 17th (the first time she finished outside the top 10 since 2016).

The two-time Wimbledon champion actually made history in Doha, becoming the first player born in the 1990’s- male or female- to win titles across three decades. But she failed to reach another final in 2021. Perhaps more disturbingly, she failed to go beyond the 3rd round of a Slam throughout the entire year.

And 2022 hasn’t started that much brighter for the Czech. She was embarrassed in Adelaide, losing in the opening round to Aussie local Priscilla Hon. She then had to dig deep in her opening match here, coming up trumps in the deciding set against Arantxa Rus.

As I noted earlier, Kvitova is a two-time Sydney champion. She also happens to be the defending champion, winning the title when it was last staged here in 2019. Can she tap into some of that history and overcome her poor recent form?

Verdict: Kvitova to win at 27/20

Yes, I know that the Czech isn’t exactly in the greatest vein of form. But she has tremendous tournament form and an exceptional record against Jabeur. She has won all three of their previous matches, including a comprehensive straight-sets win at last year’s Cincinnati Open. I think she will have benefited tremendously from that tight three-set match against Rus.

Reily Opelka 58/100 | vs Jordan Thompson 13/10

Gargantuan American Reily Opelka enjoyed an excellent 2021 campaign that saw him move beyond the stigma of being just the freakishly tall guy. The American reached his maiden Masters 1000 final, losing to US Open champion Danil Medvedev in the Canadian Masters final.

He also managed to reach a Grand Slam 4th round for the first time in his career, ultimately losing to Llyod Harris in the 4th round of the US Open. This helped to propel Opelka into the world’s top 20 for the first time in his career.

2022 hasn’t exactly started off that well for Opelka. He lost to compatriot Maxime Cressey in a marathon first-round encounter in Melbourne. He will be hoping to have dusted off some of the off-season cobwebs with that gruelling Cressey match.

Still yet to claim his maiden ATP title, Jordan Thompson is a hard-working player who just lacks the firepower to evolve into a consistent title contender. In sharp contrast to Opelka, his serve is one of the weaker ones you will find on the tour.

But he is an unyielding trier who will look to work Opelka from side to side. He will feel buoyed after a comfortable opening-round win against Giron. Thompson actually enjoyed a decent mid-season run of form last year.

After a typically dreadful clay-court season, Thompson reached the semi-finals in Newport. This was sandwiched between a slew of quarterfinals in events such as Mallorca and Atlanta.

But his season ultimately ended in something of a whimper. Can he defuse Opelka’s mega-serving theatrics and create enough rallies to break the American.

Verdict: Thompson to win in three at 39/10

This will be the first-ever meeting between these two. I think that Thompson has the opportunity to emerge victorious from this encounter. Opelka has looked slightly laboured of late and Thompson will look to capitalize on this. He will soak up the home support and work Opelka as much as possible.

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