Simona Halep vs. Kaia Kanepi
|Date & Time||Monday January 14, 2019, 7:00 PM (EST)|
The Line: -- Over/Under:
Simona Halep and Kaia Kanepi meet in the first round of the 2019 tennis Australian Open.
Simona Halep enters this tournament on a five match losing streak and has just one match since September, as she’s been recovering from a back injury. Halep lost in straight sets in Sydney, a match in which she was broken four times but did get 72 percent of her first serves in play. It’s likely going to take Halep many matches to return to form, but as long as she’s serving well and getting the ball in play, the rest of her game will come along. Halep has lost in the first round of a grand slam four times since 2016, which includes two of her last three Australian Open appearances. Halep has lost her last five matches on hard court.
Kaia Kanepi has won seven of her last 10 matches when you include qualifying, but she hasn’t played a match since reaching the fourth round of the US Open. With months without a competitive match under her belt, there are sure to be rust issues with the 33-year-old Kanepi. It’s not easy to jump into a grand slam without recent matches, even if it’s just an exhibition match. Kanepi has 11 career wins over top-10 players, but only one of those victories have come since 2015. Kanepi has lost in the first round of a grand slam in five of her last nine appearances. Kanepi has won 47 percent of her Australian Open matches, the lowest percentage of any grand slam in her career. Kanepi has won six of her last eight matches on hard court.
These two have split the previous two meetings, as Kanepi won in the 2018 US Open and Halep won in Doha in 2014.
There’s a case to be made for Kanepi, as she did beat Halep last year and the Romanian is still recovering from a serious back injury. Halep has also been a choker at times in grand slam play, especially in the AO where she’s lost in the first round twice in the last three years. With that said, Kanepi hasn’t played a match since September, so has just as many question marks. Halep was also competitive in her first match back, something she can build on in this contest.
Halep should grind out a victory.