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As one of the most exciting up-and-comers on the women’s tour, 16-year-old Gauff is always one to watch wherever she plays. But there’s a big reason this one could be exciting: the two played each other for the first time just a few days ago at one of the lead-up events, and it was a nail-biter.

Gauff barely squeaked by Teichmann after two hours and 45 grueling minutes in the first round of the Gippsland Trophy, 6-3, 6-7 (6), 7-6 (5), in what could have been a much quicker day at the office. The American teenager led 6-3, 4-2 and even built a 4-1 lead in the third before it went to a breaker.

“I thought I played well the whole match, but she definitely stepped it up in the second set,” Gauff said afterwards. We’ll see if the Austrian left-hander can step it up again next week…

Osaka v. Pavlyuchenkova heads top women's Australian Open 1st-rounders

Osaka v. Pavlyuchenkova heads top women's Australian Open 1st-rounders

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The draw ceremony for the 2021 Australian Open took place in Melbourne on Friday and with it came a slew of tricky first-round matches on the women’s side. Here are just a few of them:

When it comes to Grand Slams on hard courts, Osaka has been the best over the last few years. She’s won three of the last five majors on this surface, capturing the 2018 US Open, 2019 Australian Open and 2020 US Open. But the 2021 Australian Open draw certainly didn’t do her any favors, dealing her a first-round encounter with the third player out of the seeds in No. 39-ranked Pavlyuchenkova.

A former No. 13, Pavlyuchenkova has reached three major quarterfinals in the last four years, and all of them have come in Australia—in 2017 (falling to Venus Williams), 2019 (falling to Danielle Collins) and 2020 (falling to Garbine Muguruza). In all three years, she took out Top 10 players along the way.

The two are tied in their head-to-head, 1-1, with the Russian winning in Hong Kong in 2017, 6-3, 6-3, and the Japanese winning in the final of Osaka in 2019, 6-2, 6-3. Who will break the tie?

Osaka v. Pavlyuchenkova heads top women's Australian Open 1st-rounders

Osaka v. Pavlyuchenkova heads top women's Australian Open 1st-rounders

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On paper, Serena should make it through this one. Not only has she beaten Siegemund in straight sets both times they’ve played—at Indian Wells in 2016, 6-2, 6-1, and at Auckland in 2020, 6-4, 6-3—but she’s also an incredible 75-1 in her career in first-round matches at Grand Slams, her only loss coming to Virginie Razzano in her opener at the 2012 French Open. She’s also a 23-time major champion, with the Australian Open being tied for her best major—she’s won this tournament seven times.

But Siegemund has come on strong in recent months, following up her first Grand Slam women’s doubles title at the US Open (with Vera Zvonareva) with her first Grand Slam quarterfinal in singles at Roland Garros. She also has nine career Top 10 wins, though eight of those have come on clay.

Osaka v. Pavlyuchenkova heads top women's Australian Open 1st-rounders

Osaka v. Pavlyuchenkova heads top women's Australian Open 1st-rounders

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With a left knee injury causing her to miss Australia last year and the combination of a foot injury and lack of preparation due to the COVID-19 pandemic keeping her out after the restart, Andreescu is about to play her first match in more than 15 months. Her last event was the WTA Finals in October 2019.

And it could be a tough one. Though Buzarnescu is currently ranked No. 138, she went as high as No. 20 in 2018 before ankle and shoulder injuries derailed her career. The Romanian lefty returned to the tour last September after more than 11 months out and is itching to get her momentum back.

The two are 1-1 in their head-to-head, though Buzarnescu’s win came at an ITF event in 2015 when Andreescu was just 15 years old. Andreescu won their only tour-level meeting at Acapulco in 2019.

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Osaka v. Pavlyuchenkova heads top women's Australian Open 1st-rounders

Osaka v. Pavlyuchenkova heads top women's Australian Open 1st-rounders

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Azarenka exploded back into the upper echelon of women’s tennis last summer, winning her biggest title in more than four years at Cincinnati (in New York) and reaching her first major final in seven years at the US Open (falling to Osaka in three sets). And now, the former No. 1 is back at her favorite major, the Australian Open, where she’s won both of her Grand Slam titles, in 2012 and 2013.

But Azarenka wasn’t the only player whose game was popping in the New York bubble. Pegula had two breakthrough runs there, reaching the quarterfinals of Cincinnati (scoring the biggest win of her career against then-No. 11 Aryna Sabalenka en route) and the third round of the US Open (her best result at a major). She also nearly beat Sofia Kenin at one of the lead-ups in Melbourne this week...

Osaka v. Pavlyuchenkova heads top women's Australian Open 1st-rounders

Osaka v. Pavlyuchenkova heads top women's Australian Open 1st-rounders

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As one of the most exciting up-and-comers on the women’s tour, 16-year-old Gauff is always one to watch wherever she plays. But there’s a big reason this one could be exciting: the two played each other for the first time just a few days ago at one of the lead-up events, and it was a nail-biter.

Gauff barely squeaked by Teichmann after two hours and 45 grueling minutes in the first round of the Gippsland Trophy, 6-3, 6-7 (6), 7-6 (5), in what could have been a much quicker day at the office. The American teenager led 6-3, 4-2 and even built a 4-1 lead in the third before it went to a breaker.

“I thought I played well the whole match, but she definitely stepped it up in the second set,” Gauff said afterwards. We’ll see if the Austrian left-hander can step it up again next week…

Osaka v. Pavlyuchenkova heads top women's Australian Open 1st-rounders

Osaka v. Pavlyuchenkova heads top women's Australian Open 1st-rounders

Getty Images

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Osaka v. Pavlyuchenkova heads top women's Australian Open 1st-rounders

Osaka v. Pavlyuchenkova heads top women's Australian Open 1st-rounders

Getty Images

Osaka v. Pavlyuchenkova heads top women's Australian Open 1st-rounders

Osaka v. Pavlyuchenkova heads top women's Australian Open 1st-rounders