Australian Open 2016: First round preview – the best match-ups

Another year, another Australian Open gets the full treatment.

Let’s begin by looking at the most intriguing of the opening round contests, including some of my own favourites and a certain home-grown talent bidding a final farewell.

MENS SINGLES

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs Marcos Baghdatis

Those who know this blog well find it no surprise to see Baggy featured here – he brings fire and character with a dashing of eccentricity to any match. But coupled with a resurgent Jo-Wilfred and you have a opener guaranteed to entertain.

Philip Kohlschreiber vs Kei Nishikori

Where Tsonga and Baghdatis offer entertainment, these two offer consistent quality. The German’s backhand is a wonderful thing and Nishikori is a versatile and energetic sight on court. Should be a firecracker of a game, and Kohlschreiber has a habit of producing an upset or at least coming mighty close.

Rafa Nadal vs Fernando Verdasco

He may be on his way back to his best, but Rafa Nadal cannot be relishing a first round meet with the ever dangerous Verdasco who may now be on the wane, but can be relied upon to turn up and deliver.

Ernests Gulbis vs Jeremy Chardy

These two met in a scintillating encounter in the French last year with Chardy prevailing. Explosive play styles and some wonderful shot-making are assured here.

James Duckworth vs Lleyton Hewitt

Expect no sympathy from the younger Aussie for his countryman and former finalist on his swansong tournament. The home nation would expect no less from their competitors. Can Lleyton sneak a win? Sorry James but let’s hope so.

LADIES SINGLES

Serena Williams vs Camila Giorgi

In a similar-ish vein to the match between Serena and Alize Cornet at Wimbledon, this offers a similar mix-up of styles which – unless Serena is in steamroller mode – offers a lovely clash of tactics vs power.

Daniela Hantuchová vs Svetlana Kuznetsova

Dani’s star has been on the wane for a considerable amount of time, her title in Pattaya almost a year ago providing the only highlight of a desperate 2015 season. She still hasn’t dropped out of the top 100 in 15 straight seasons, but that impressive record is likely to end this year barring a miracle. Sveta however is showing no signs of slowing down – long may her career continue.

Kristina Mladenovic vs Sam Stosur

Stosur is looking back to her best but in Mladenovic meets a player content to upset the favourites whenever she’s in the mood. The Frenchwoman is due a really big year and 2016 could be it.

Venus Williams vs Johanna Konta

Turn the clock back 6 months and you’d have to fancy Konta here, but Venus can still rally with the best of them and is likely to have too much. The British media will be covering this exhaustively so you wont miss it.

(Picture courtesy of http://www.supersport.com)

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