The 2021 Australian Open starts Sunday evening in North America and Monday in Australia. Here are the best eight first round matches from Down Under.
8) Svetlana Kuznetsova-Russia vs. Barbora Strycova–Czech Republic–This match has Kuznetsova, the two-time major champion (2004 US Open and 2009 French Open) against Strycova, the 2019 Wimbledon semifinalist. Head to head, Kuznetsova has the 2-1 advantage, with each player beating each other at Wimbledon in the past.
7) Venus Williams–United States vs. Kirsten Flipkens–Belgium–Venus Williams has won seven grand slam titles, but never the Australian Open. There is no doubt that time is running out for Venus to win another major at 40 years of age. Flipkens meanwhile has reached one major semifinal, the 2013 Wimbledon. This is their fifth meeting all-time. So far, they have won two matches each. Venus Williams won at the 2007 FedCup and the 2013 US Open, while Flipkens won in Canada in 2013 and at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
6) (31) Lorenzo Sonego–Italy vs. Sam Querrey–United States–This has the smell of an upset as Querrey is the player here with the better grand slam resume even though he is unseeded. The 2017 Wimbledon semifinalist has not had great performances in Australia however, as he has never reached the fourth round. This will be their first career meeting.
5) (24) Casper Ruud–Norway vs. Jordan Thompson–Australia–Even though Thompson is unseeded, he should be the favourite here as he has home court advantage. Ruud won their only prior meeeting, a five-set thriller in the first round of the 2018 French Open.
4) (21) Alex De Minaur–Australia vs. Tennys Sandgren–United States–The 29-year-old American has reached the quarterfinals in two of the last three Australian Opens, and lost a five-set thriller to Roger Federer at last year’s Australian Open. At 21 years of age, De Minaur is one of the game’s rising stars and reached the quarterfinals of the 2020 U.S. Open. This will also be their first meeting.
3) (18) Grigor Dimitrov–Bulgaria vs. Marin Cilic–Croatia–This one has the three-time grand slam semifinalist in Dimitrov against the 2014 US Open champion in Cilic. The unseeded Croatian is 4-2 all-time head to head, with Dimitrov winning the last match in the second round of the 2019 French Open.
2) (15) Pablo Carreno Busta–Spain vs. Kei Nishikori–Japan–Here we have two-time US Open semifinalist Carreno Busta against Nishikori, the 2014 US Open finalist. Nishikori is coming back to tennis after suffering from coronavirus last year. Head to head, Nishikori beat Carreno Busta in the fourth round last year in five sets.
1) (9) Matteo Berrettini–Italy vs. Kevin Anderson–South Africa–Berrettini, the 2019 US Open semifinalist is up against Anderson, the 2017 US Open and 2018 Wimbledon finalist. This will be their first head-to-head meeting of their career.