The first round of the Australian Open is in the books as second-round action begins today.
The jitters that surround the first Grand Slam of the season are gone as the world’s best continue to push forward into the second week.
Here are the matches to be aware of and bold predictions of their outcomes on Day 3.
Probably the most anticipated women’s match of Day 3 features Australia’s hopeful against a hard-hitting Jie Zheng.
Both players look shaky during their first rounds. Stosur struggled and battled her nerves and Zheng needed three sets to advance. Stosur has never gotten past the fourth round at the Australian Open and has failed to reach the second week in the last two years..
Her opponent Zheng, on the other hand, knows what it takes to reach the second week, making the semifinals in 2010 before losing to Justine Henin. She has reached the second week of The Australian Open the last three times she has entered from 2009-2012 (she did not play in 2011), and knows how to take advantage of her “underdog” status," as we saw in last year's Wimbledon. She pushed Serena Williams before losing 9-7 in the third set.
Zheng and Stosur have already met this season, last week in Sydney, where Zheng won the tight contest 6-3, 6-7, 6-4. But don’t read too much into that because this is anyone’s match.
Except a three setter with Stosur conquering her Aussie nerves and reaching the third round in dramatic fashion.
The poor Spaniard can’t catch a break. After losing early last year to Aussie youngster Bernard Tomic when leading two sets to love, Verdasco drew David Goffin in the opening round, the 22-year-old breakthrough star of last season. Verdasco needed all the help he could get as he dug deep and won 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in three hours and 22 minutes.
Now he faces 32-year-old Xavier Malisse, who can still manage second-week appearances at Slams, as we saw at Wimbledon last year when he took out Verdasco in five sets. Malisse’s game is suited for fast hard courts, and will take a couple sets off of Verdasco.
Look for another late-night thriller on Margaret Court Arena with Verdasco prevailing again in five sets.
Querrey, the only seeded American man in the draw, faces fellow American and breakout star from last year, Brian Baker. Though the Australian Open is not Querrey’s best Slam (failing to reach the second week), he should have the upper hand against Baker thanks to his powerful serve. Look for Querrey to come out in four sets.
As for the other American men, 20 year-old Ryan Harrison faces Djokovic at night on Rod Laver Arena. The young American loves the big stage and has a strong game to maybe take a set from Djokovic, but not the match.
Lastly, Tim Smyczek, a qualifier, faces David Ferrer on Margaret Court Arena and will have his work cut out for him.
Venus Williams should have no problem against France's Alize Cornet as they battle first during the night session on Day 3. Venus will need to save energy for her likely third-round opponent, Maria Sharapova.
But she won’t be the only American woman to advance on Day 3. Look for Madison Keys, the 17-year-old from Illinois, to break through and reach the third round for the first time in her young career. She plays Tamira Paszek, who only seems to shine at Wimbledon.
Coming into the tournament, Paszek has not won a match in Australia since 2007, which is good news for Keys. Look for the outer court to help Keys get the crowd support and the win.
Another intriguing matchup features two veterans late in the day. Both lost early in Sydney and are hoping to get off to a better start to the 2013 season in Melbourne.
Stepanek is coming off a brilliant Davis Cup performance, capturing the first Davis Cup for Czech Republic in 32 years, but it still won’t help his confidence on the hard court. Stepanek hasn’t played his best in Australia, whereas Lopez reached the fourth round last year.
Although Stepanek leads the head-to-head, 7-2, the last time these two met on hard court, Lopez came out the winner.
Look for a close contest with Lopez reaching the third round.