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Australian Open Monday: Serena On Court

The first day of the first Grand Slam of the year is highlighted by the Williams sisters' openers and crowd favorite Samantha Stosur starting her Melbourne campaign.

Published January 12, 2014 12:12

Australian Open Monday: Serena On Court
Serena Williams

MELBOURNE, Australia - The first day of action at the Australian Open will feature Serena Williams taking on a potential future Australian star and sister Venus Williams squaring off against the always dangerous Ekaterina Makarova.

Monday, First Round

Rod Laver Arena
[1] Serena Williams (USA #1) vs. [WC] Ashleigh Barty (AUS #155)
Head-to-head: First meeting
Serena Williams begins her quest for her 18th Grand Slam title with a tilt against promising Australian 17-year-old Ashleigh Barty. Although she is the Open Era leader with five Australian Open titles, Williams is in the midst of a Melbourne drought by her standards, having not been victorious since 2010. During that period, she has been upset by Ekaterina Makarova and Sloane Stephens. A loss this early would be monumental, though, considering she is 52-1 in Grand Slam openers, 13-0 in the first round of the Australian Open and in the midst of a 22-match winning streak that dates back to August.

Barty is coming into this major with a bit of confidence, having won three qualifying matches in her 2014 debut in Brisbane and her first round match over World No.33 Daniela Hantuchova - her best win to date. In fact, technically she is undefeated so far this year, as she withdrew prior to her second round clash with Maria Sharapova because of a left adductor injury. The second-youngest player in the 2013 year-end Top 200 will be playing a World No.1 for the first time and though nerves will surely be plentiful, she has competed on big stages before - albeit usually in doubles. She was runner-up at three Grand Slams in 2013 alongside fellow Aussie Casey Dellacqua, including the Australian Open.

[17] Samantha Stosur (AUS #17) vs. Klara Zakopalova (CZE #32)
Head-to-head: Stosur leads 3-2
Samantha Stosur's home Grand Slam has not been kind to her over the years, as she is yet to go beyond the fourth round. But this year she enters Melbourne with renewed confidence, coming off a season that saw her capture multiple WTA titles for the first time and having been a semifinalist at her 2014 debut in Hobart. However, the draw gods here did her no favors in matching her up with her Hobart conqueror in the first round, Klara Zakopalova. That being said, two of Stosur's three wins over the Czech have come in the first round of the Australian Open, so she knows that when the stakes are greatest she has come out on top.

"I thought it was a bit funny," Stosur said at her pre-tournament press conference. "And it was a bit strange because at the time of the draw we still had to play our match in Hobart. It will be the third time we've played in the first round of the Aussie Open, so it's a little bit weird.

"I don't think the Hobart match will mean too much. Well, it won't mean too much for me, anyway!"

Zakopalova has 23 Top 20 wins to her credit, so will be looking for No.24 on Monday. Interestingly enough, the first of those came at her Grand Slam main draw debut against World No.7 Monica Seles at the 2003 Australian Open.

Margaret Court Arena
[22] Ekaterina Makarova (RUS #22) vs. Venus Williams (USA #37)
Head-to-head:
Williams leads 2-0
Ekaterina Makarova's best Grand Slam success has come in Melbourne, with quarterfinal runs in 2012 and 2013. And that included the signature win of her career over Serena Williams in the fourth round in 2012. Standing in the way of a 7-0 record in first round matches here and her 300th professional match win is Williams' sister, Venus, whom has beaten her in straight sets in both of their previous meetings.

As for Williams, she will be looking to improve to 56-5 in Grand Slam openers and 13-1at the Australian Open. She should like her chances for another defeat of Makarova, considering she is 27-3 against left-handed players at majors and is coming off a runner-up showing in Auckland.

Around the grounds…
Angelique Kerber seeks her first win in three meetings with Aussie Jarmila Gajdosova, Auckland champion Ana Ivanovic takes on Kiki Bertens and No.4 seed Li Na plays Ana Konjuh in a match-up featuring the 2013 Australian Open runner-up and the 2013 Australian Open junior girls' champ.

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