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Three to See, Day 8: Serena-Halep, Keys-Svitolina, Zverev-Raonic
Serena Williams, the favorite against the world No. 1, has dropped just nine games through three rounds.
Published Jan 20, 2019
Before each day's play at the Australian Open, we'll preview three must-see matches.
Halep was honest in her assessment of this blockbuster fourth-rounder. “In this moment, I’m No. 1 in the world,” she said. “But for sure she’s the best player in the world because she won so many Grand Slams.”
The stats say that Serena should be the solid, if not overwhelming, favorite in this match: She’s won 23 majors to Halep’s one, and she leads their head to head 8-1. Halep’s lone win came in the round-robin phase of the 2014 WTA Finals in Singapore, but even that was technically canceled out, because Serena came back to beat her in the final—6-3, 6-0—later that week.
Still, being the underdog, which she rarely is these days, should help Halep relax and swing away. Like she said, she’s No. 1, but she has little to lose, at least when the match begins. And it shouldn’t be forgotten that it has been two years since Serena won a Slam, a period of time in which Halep has reached the finals of three and won one.
Serves and returns will be key: How much will Serena be able to rely on her serve to bail her out of jams? Will Halep be able to avoid having her own second serve belted past her? After those two shots, the rallies should be fun, and competitive.
Winner: S. Williams
The American and the Ukrainian must be thinking that if Naomi Osaka can go all the way at a major, there’s no reason why they can’t, too. Both have been at the top of the Most Likely to Win a Slam list for a few years, but just when it looks as they’re ready to cash in, they don’t. How about this time? Keys is coming off a season in which she reached two Grand Slam semifinals and a quarterfinal, and Svitolina is coming off the biggest title of her career, at the WTA Finals.
Based on head-to-head history and form over the past week, Keys should be the favorite. She has won both of their previous meetings, one of which was a stirring three-setter at the US Open in 2017. While Svitolina struggled mightily to oust Shuai Zhang in the third round, Keys cruised past a quality opponent in Elise Mertens. If Svitolina can get her teeth into this one, complicate the rallies, and make it a dogfight, she can win. Otherwise, I’ll take the bigger hitter.
The German and the Canadian seem to have redemption on their minds Down Under. Judging by the hype and hope that has surrounded them both over the last five years, you’d think one of them would own a major title by now. But neither does: Zverev is among the world’s best everywhere else, but he’s a perpetual disappointment at the Slams. Meanwhile, Raonic’s once-methodical ascent has been halted by a bewildering list of injuries.
So far in Oz, Zverev has survived a potentially disastrous five-setter against Jeremy Chardy, and Raonic has been steely in a four-tiebreaker win over Stan Wawrinka and a straight-set win over Nick Kyrgios. He and Zverev have met once before at a Slam, at Wimbledon in 2017; Zverev led, but Raonic eventually won in five. Could we see something similar happen on Sunday?
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