The reigning Roland Garros Champion, Jelena Ostapenko will open proceedings on the Rod Laver Arena in under eight hours. She will compete against the 2010 Roland Garros Champion, Francesca Schiavone. This will be Jelena’s third time competing in Melbourne, compared to Francesca’s milestone of seventeen appearances. Although they have never faced each other and with Jelena being the bookies favourite, one can never underestimate Francesca, who often brings her A Game to these prestigious Grand Slam events.
The most intriguing match up of the opening day, follows the battle of the Roland Garros Champions. Venus Williams, the 2017 Australian Open Finalist will face the former top 10 player, Belinda Bencic. Belinda reached a career high of #7 at the beginning of 2016, before facing numerous injuries which ultimately lead her to undergo wrist surgery which forced her off the tour. Belinda made a sensational comeback during September 2017 on the ITF tour and WTA 125k series, by winning four tournaments. Belinda’s improved form followed her to Australia as she commenced her Aussie Open preparations by winning the Hopman Cup in Perth partnering Roger Federer. Although Venus leads the head to head with four wins, the outcome of their forthcoming meeting is too close to call.
Grigor Dimitrov, the #3 seed will commence his Aussie Open campaign against an Austrian Qualifier Dennis Novak, who is making his first Grand Slam main draw appearance. Rafael Nadal, the 2009 Aussie Open Champion, and reigning Roland Garros and US Open Champion will face the second oldest participant in the main draw, Victor Estrella Burgos. Victor, aged 37, largely participated in Challengers and Futures Events for the majority of his career. He made his first Australian Open appearance in 2015. Victor is most known for being the oldest first time winner of an ATP Title, when he won the first edition of the Ecuador Open in 2015. Victor has gone on to win a hat-trick of titles in Ecuador and remains to be the only champion to have ever lifted the trophy.
Other intriguing first rounds on the opening day on the women’s side of the draw include the 2016 Olympian Gold winner, Monica Puig face the 2011 Us Open Champion, Sam Stosur. Sam leads the head to head series with four wins to one loss, with Monica winning their last battle. One factor to bear in mind ahead of their next meeting is the fact that Monica has never lost in the first round of the Aussie Open, while the Aussie Sam Stosur has fallen at the first hurdle on the last two occasions. Dominika Cibulkova the 2014 Aussie Open Finalist will face Kaia Kanepi, Kaia leads the head to head with three wins and one loss. Can Monica continue to reduce the deficit in their head to head and can Kaia continue to maintain her record against the Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova?
On the mens side, we will see a battle of future rising stars, who are competing in the main draw for the first time. The Canadian Denis Shapovalov, aged 18 will face the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, aged 19. Both obtained top ten wins to their names last year, Denis defeated Nadal in Montreal, while Stefanos defeated the Belgian David Goffin in Antwerp. This match up could be the first of many. Jack Sock, the 2017 Paris Masters Champion, will face the Japanese Yuichi Sugita. Both commenced the season in similar fashion, dropping their opening match in Auckland. Yuichi can carry some confidence into the match up as he defeated Jack in their sole meeting last year on the hard courts in Cincinnati in straight sets. Who of the two rising stars will win their first Aussie Open match and can Jack Sock equalise his head to head against Yuichi?