Storylines and matches to watch on Day 2 of the Australian Open:
• Serena Williams starts her campaign: Williams begins her quest for a third straight Slam against No. 108 Edina Gallovits-Hall. The oddest thing is she’s scheduled second on Hisense Arena, the No. 2 show court, after another women’s match that has the potential of going a full three sets. Not the ideal schedule for Williams, who should be off the court in less than an hour. Conventional wisdom says Williams is at her most vulnerable in the first three rounds when she’s still playing her way into form. But with her title run in Brisbane just two weeks ago, there’s no reason to doubt she will come out sharp Tuesday.
• Roger Federer and Juan Martin del Potro take on France: Both men come into the Australian Open with no competitive 2013 match play, and they don’t have easy matches to start. Federer will face Benoit Paire (third match, Rod Laver Arena), a flashy Frenchman (aren’t they all?) on the rise. Expect Federer to come through, but Paire can be tricky because of his unpredictability. Del Potro has drawn another Frenchman, Adrian Mannarino (fourth match, Hisense Arena), probably the toughest qualifier to get into the main draw. Mannarino beat Del Potro in straight sets at Queen’s in 2011. Mannarino will be used to the conditions with three qualifying matches under his belt.
• Bernard Tomic riding eight-match winning streak: Time to put your money where your mouth is, Bernie. Tomic is talking a big game, touting his win over Novak Djokovic at the Hopman Cup despite the fact it was an exhibition (the 20-year-old Aussie also won the Sydney title last week). He’s gone so far as to question Federer’s ability to make their potential third-round date. I wouldn’t expect a letdown for Tomic, who will take on Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer in the first night match on Rod Laver Arena. With an opportunity to show his home crowd that he really is worth the hype, expect Tomic to step up. The key is to get off the court quickly. Long matches early in the tournament won’t bode well for him later, such as the third round.
• Eyes on the young American women: Varvara Lepchenko (second match, Court 8), Sloane Stephens (third match, Margaret Court Arena), Christina McHale (second match, Court 7), Jamie Hampton (fourth match, Court 2), Lauren Davis (third match, Court 11), Melanie Oudin (third match, Court 3) and Vania King (first match, Court 2). I don’t think Oudin has enough weapons to bother Brit Laura Robson, who beat her easily here in qualifying last year. But keep an eye on McHale’s match against feisty 18-year-old Yulia Putintseva and Davis against another 18-year-old, Russian qualifier Daria Gavrilova. Not easy matchups for either player, especially given McHale’s subpar form of late.
Matches to watch
• No. 2 Roger Federer vs. Benoit Paire (third match, Rod Laver Arena): This should be fun. Especially if Paire goes for shots like this.
• No. 10 Caroline Wozniacki vs. Sabine Lisicki (first match, Hisense Arena): Wozniacki couldn’t have asked for a tougher first-round match. Lisicki leads the head-to-head 2-1, beating Wozniacki at Charleston and Wimbledon in 2009 (that Wimbledon match was the scene of their infamous bump, scored to some slightly inappropriate music here). The two haven’t played since then. I’m not sure I’d consider a Lisicki victory an upset because her talent betrays her No. 36 ranking.
• No. 8 Petra Kvitova vs. Francesca Schiavone (second match, Margaret Court Arena): Two Slam champions go head-to-head. Despite her struggles, expect Kvitova to come through. She lost early in Brisbane and Sydney to eventual finalists Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Dominika Cibulkova. Compare that to Schiavone, who’s now No. 48 and lost in the first round of Hobart to Kristen Flipkens, a player ranked outside the top 50.
• No. 18 Alexandr Dolgopolov Gael Monfils (first night match, Margaret Court Arena): These two have never played. This match would be worthy of an ATP final, but one now made possible by Monfils’ low ranking, a result of his knee injury last year. There will be shotmaking. That I can virtually guarantee. Oh, and Monfils will hit the deck at some point. That’s just Gael being Gael.
• No. 31 Urszula Radwanska vs. Jamie Hampton (fourth match, Court 2): They’ve never met. Radwanska is a solid player who had a remarkably consistent 2012. If Hampton can serve well and stay aggressive, I like her chances of pulling off the upset.
• Upset specials: Jarkko Nieminen over No. 19 Tommy Haas (fourth match, Court 3), Hampton over Radwanska.