Three to See, Day 1: Federer, Kerber begin their Aussie Opens at night

Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Email

In his first match since July, the 35-year-old Swiss will meet someone older than he is. (AP)

Before each day of play at the Australian Open, we'll preview and predict three must-see matches. For full coverage of the season's first Slam, go to our men’s and women’s tournament pages.

Simona Halep [4] vs. Shelby Rogers

The Aussie Open kicks off in Rod Laver Arena with what could be a difficult first match for the women’s No. 4 seed. Halep has suffered from early jitters Down Under in the past—she’s lost in the opening round three times in the last five years, including in 2016, when she was the No. 2 seed. Still, the numbers do favor the Romanian: Halep is ranked 53 spots ahead of Rogers, and she won their only meeting in routine, 6-2, 6-3 fashion at the U.S. Open two years ago. But while the American can be wildly erratic, she can pull off upsets at majors. Last spring she beat Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova to reach the quarterfinals at the French Open. Her big-cut ground strokes, if they’re clicking, could be tough for the undersized Halep to handle. Winner: Halep

Angelique Kerber [1] vs. Lesia Tsurenko

Yes, Kerber is returning to the site where, 12 months ago, she won her first major title. But she’s also returning to the site where, two weeks before that, she was forced to save a match point against Misaki Doi just to make it out of the first round. Which Kerber will show up for this night-session return in Laver: the confident one or the shaky one? On the one hand, she’s proven that can handle a big stage; on the other, she’s looked pretty shaky in 2017. So far she’s 1-2, and she hardly looked like a dominant champion in her straight-set loss to 26th-ranked Daria Kasatkina in Sydney. The 61st-ranked Tsurenko isn’t at Kasatkina’s level, not to mention Kerber’s, and she had to pull out of her semifinal in Hobart last week with a viral illness. But the Ukrainian did win three matches there, and in her only meeting with Kerber, in 2015, she won the first set 6-1 before falling in three. Will we see this year’s Aussie Open begin with another Kerber comeback? Winner: Kerber

Roger Federer [17] vs. Jurgen Melzer

What were the chances that the 35-year-old Federer would face an opponent older than he is in his first match since July? That’s what will happen in the final encounter on Laver on Monday, when he faces Melzer, who is three months his elder. The Austrian, who has struggled with shoulder problems, spent most of last season on the Challenger circuit, and he had to qualify for the main draw in Melbourne. He did win his last meeting with Federer, on clay in 2011, but the chances seem beyond slim that the lefty will make it two in a row. Let’s hope Melzer sticks around long enough to give us one of his trademark jumping two-handed backhand drop shots. That’s something even Federer won’t be able to match. Winner: Federer

Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Email