Australian Open Preview: Mighty tasks ahead for Britons

Jo Konta dug deep on Tuesday to make it three Brits into the second round of the Australian Open. A gutsy performance, and the second Briton to win on a deciding tie-break, was welcomed by British fans whose best hopes perhaps lie with the former Semi-Finalist.

In Wednesday’s action, both Dan Evans and Katie Boulter face uphill tasks if they are to make it through to the next round, while the doubles gets underway, as we preview the action.

Dan Evans vs Roger Federer

After coming through qualifying, and comfortably eliminating Tatsuma Ito in the opening round, Dan Evans earned the dream draw of facing Roger Federer on the Rod Laver Arena. Federer has won his last FIFTEEN matches in Melbourne, and Evans knows he has it all to do on Wednesday.

In their two encounters (Hopman Cup 2017 and Wimbledon 2016), Evans has failed to take a set. At Wimbledon, where they met in the third round, the Briton was comfortably beaten by an inspired Federer and the same is likely to happen in Melbourne.

However, Evans will pose a threat to the Swiss Champion. Dan is looking sharp and will certainly cause Federer difficulty in the early stages. Evans must take his chances – and he will get them – if he is to cause the mammoth of all upsets.

Whatever happens, Evans can be proud that he has worked his way back into an occasion like this tomorrow. He has the bit between his teeth and has nothing to lose. Can he do it?

Verdict: Roger Federer to win in three sets.

Katie Boulter vs Aryna Sabalenka

This should be a corker. Katie Boutler brought her A-game to Ekaterina Makarova and her forehand was perhaps the best it’s ever been on a big stage. Surprising many, and impressing critics, Boulter is making more of a name for herself thanks to her consistent appearances on the WTA tour.

On Wednesday she faces many people’s outside tip to win the whole competition – Aryna Sabalenka. The young Belarusian pushed Naomi Osaka at the US Open, with some critics saying she could’ve been the one lifting the trophy had she won that match.

Sabalenka is great to watch, but is a rookie when it comes to Grand Slams. Monday’s 6-1 6-4 win over Anna Kalinskaya was her first in Melbourne, and with more expectation on her shoulders, Boulter will have an opportunity to really test the eleventh seeds nerves.

At just 20 years of age, Sabalenka is the perfect test for Boulter to see where she’s currently at in her career. If Boulter is going to break new ground this year, and indeed across the next decade, it’s players like Sabalenka that she will likely face in the latter stages of tournaments.

A good showing here will get people very excited.

Verdict: Aryna Sabalenka in three sets

Luke Bambridge/Jonny O’Mara vs Marius Copil/Marton Fucsovics

Making their debut at the Australian Open would have been a pipe dream for Luke Bambridge and Jonny O’Mara last year. Hard work, determination and a handful of ATP titles have meant they have secured a main draw berth in Melbourne.

2019 almost got off to the perfect start for the Brits, where they reached the final of the ATP 250 event in Pune. They came short in the final, but preparation in the tricky conditions of India will stand them in good stead for their opening match in Melbourne.

Their first round draw is a good one. Copil and Fucsovics, while good doubles players, are inexperienced as a pair. Indeed, their last two matches together came back in 2017, where they lost both times.

Verdict: Bambridge and O’Mara in three sets

Heather Watson/Tatjana Maria vs Nicole Melichar/Kveta Peschke

Fresh from opening round defeats in the singles, Heather Watson and Tatjana Maria team up once again as they look to cause a big upset in the women’s doubles opening round. Watson and Maria lost to Petra Martic and Serena Williams, respectively, but neither will be looking to end their Australian Open adventure anytime soon.

The British-German pair reached the Quarter-Finals at Wimbledon, and won their first WTA title together at the Mexican Open last year in March. A nice partnership is coming together, and many believe Watson is at her best when in doubles action.

Their opponents – and fourth seeds – were losing finalists at Wimbledon and have formed a strong bond together recently. They have also started 2019 with intent, winning the Brisbane International where they ran out 6-1 6-1 winners over the talented Taiwanese pair Chan Hao-Ching and Chan Latisha. It’ll be a big task for Watson and Maria, and they will have to get over their first round losses fairly soon if they are to have a chance in the doubles.

Verdict: Melichar and Peshke in two sets

Image: Kate Tann

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