Unibet columnist Sean Calvert thinks Thursday could see some big name casualties as Sloane Stephens and Caroline Wozniacki slog it out in the oppressive Melbourne heat...
The remaining 32 matches in the second round of the 2014 Australian Open Women’s Singles are scheduled for Thursday at a boiling Melbourne Park.
The dial hit over 40C again on Wednesday and a fair few of the ladies couldn’t cope, with Sabine Lisicki – who I said yesterday might struggle against Monica Niculescu – was one to simply fade away in the blazing heat.
I suspected it wouldn’t be a good day for my bets when Tsvetana Pironkova came out with barely any of her leg visible under virtually a complete roll of bandaging and tape and the Bulgarian was in no state to be competitive against Sam Stosur – heat or no heat.
I did expect more from Julia Goerges though in a very winnable match against Lauren Davis, but a poor tournament for the Germans continued with a three set loss for an exhausted-looking Goerges.
With the temperature set to be in excess of 40C again on Thursday, some of the favourites may be more than a touch shaky, notably those whose fitness is somewhat questionable.
One name that springs to mind is Nastia Pavlyuchenkova, who has already been very vocal in her opinion of the playing conditions. I can’t imagine that her opponent Mandy Minella will enjoy it too much either given her comments, so it’s even more of a lottery than usual in the women’s draw right now.
Sloane Stephens vs Ajla Tomljanovic – BET and STREAM live on Unibet TV from 01.05 GMT
This pair know each other well from junior days and, given the current form and fitness situation of Stephens, she looks awfully short at 1.18 here.
Sloane was woeful for large parts of her match with Slava Shvedova in round one and only a mammoth choke from Slava allowed Stephens to take the first set of that match.
Her wrist has been a big problem for Stephens of late, but even without that issue she’s regularly overrated by the layers considering she’s yet to win a career title on the WTA Tour and that semi-final run here last year looks a long time ago at the moment.
Tomljanovic had to fight and scrap to get through her opener, but she won’t be daunted by Stephens on Thursday, as indeed she shouldn’t be, and I’d be surprised if she wasn’t able to win this one with a 5.5 game start on the handicap at 1.87.
Caroline Wozniacki vs Christina McHale – BET and STREAM live on Unibet TV from 01.05 GMT
The second of the two underdogs I give a chance to tonight is McHale, who has recovered well from a bout of glandular fever and like tonight’s opponent has been working on her strength and power on the off-season.
McHale plays a similar type of game to Caro and has beaten the Dane twice in their three meetings, which puts her in contention in this lunchtime (local time) encounter.
Wozniacki has been working with Maria Sharapova’s former coach Thomas Hogstedt in an attempt to regain lost ground in the rankings and challenge for majors, and Hogstedt is trying to get the Dane to hit a heavier ball. It will be interesting to see how she fares in the heat of the day against a decent defender in McHale, who I can see troubling Wozniacki.
Caro’s easy win over the weaponless Lourdes Dominguez Lino has perhaps made her price shorter than it should be and I like the +1.5 sets on the American at 1.92.
Wozniacki has failed to make it beyond the fourth round of any major since here back in 2012 and McHale will fancy her chances of continuing that unwanted run of Caro’s here.
I also give chances to Camila Giorgi at 2.55 against Alize Cornet and Zarina Diyas is in great form at the moment and she’s no forlorn hope against Marina Erakovic, who struggles playing in her home nation of New Zealand and here.
Back Tomljanovic + 5.5 games to beat Stephens at 1.87
Back McHale +1.5 sets to beat Wozniacki at 1.92