The second-round matches at the loaded WTA 500 fields in Melbourne, the Yarra Valley Classic and Gippsland Trophy, are ready for some serious business. There are a number of stellar matches on tap for Day 3, featuring no fewer than seven Grand Slam champions. Here's a look:
Yarra Valley Classic
No. 1 Ashleigh Barty vs. Ana Bogdan
It’s been 11 months since Barty, former professional cricket player and current world No. 1, played a meaningful match. That doesn’t count Friday’s exhibition match in Adelaide, technically a loss to Simona Halep, in a third-set tiebreak.
“I genuinely missed it so much,” Barty said afterward. “I’ve been getting a little bit impatient the last two or three months getting ready to play. I so excited to get started.”
The Australian lost to eventual champion Sofia Kenin in the 2020 Australian finals – the only Grand Slam unaffected by the global pandemic. She elected to stay home and skip the US Open and French Open.
Bogdan reached the second round after defeating Kamilla Rakhimova 6-2, 6-2 Sunday. The 28-year-old Romanian is ranked No. 93 and this will be her first match against Barty.
No. 4 Petra Kvitova vs. Venus Williams
When the draw came out, this was the potential second-round match that commanded the most attention. There are a total of seven Wimbledon singles and six doubles titles between them, as well as a backstory of uncommon perseverance.
Kvitova overcame a terrifying home invasion and possibly career-threatening hand injury. Williams, despite a diagnosis of Sjogrens syndrome, an auto-immune disease that causes joint pain and fatigue, is still a force at the age of 40. She feels lucky to be playing at a time when COVID-19 has the world locked down.
“My mom reminds me of that all the time, that I have to be, that I need to take precautions,” Venus said after her first-round win over Arantxa Rus. “There are times when I think, 'Oh, my gosh, this could be bad if I ever got COVID.'”
Williams has had terrific results Down Under; her 68 match wins in the Australian Open are fourth among active players, and she won the singles gold medal in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.
Kvitova reached here third career Grand Slam final at the 2019 Australian Open. She holds a 4-3 head-to-head lead, but Venus has won the past two, both on hard courts (Indian Wells 2019, US Open 2017).
No. 2 Sofia Kenin vs. Camila Giorgi
Just before all the madness of 2020 ensued, Sofia Kenin won her first Grand Slam singles title in Australia. The 22-year-old American backed it up by reaching the finals of Roland Garros 10 months later.
This week of the Australian summer could prove vital in preparing for her upcoming defense.
Kenin, ranked No. 4, lost to Maria Sakkari in the quarterfinals at Abu Dhabi and faces Giorgi, a first-round winner over Clara Burel in straight sets Monday. Giorgi, a 29-year-old Italian, is ranked No. 76. The two have never met.
Of note: No. 6 Garbine Muguruza vs. Alison Van Uytvanck
No. 4 Aryna Sabalenka vs. Kaia Kanepi
The hottest tennis player in the world is Sabalenka, who has won 15 consecutive matches with titles in Ostrava, Linz and Abu Dhabi -- the only three WTA events held since Roland Garros.
“Yeah, I already forget what happened in the past, to be honest,” Sabalenka said in her pre-event press conference. “I’m going to focus on my game, prepare myself for the Grand Slam. Yeah, this is where is my mind is. I would say ready to go.”
The 22-year-old Belarusian will try to keep that streak intact in a second-round match against Kanepi, who rallied to beat Astra Sharma of Australia 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 on Sunday. The 35-year-old veteran from Estonia is ranked No. 94. This will be her first match against Sabalenka.
“She's really powerful player,” Sabalenka said of Kanepi. “Big serve. Yeah, it’s going to be tough to handle this power. But I think I will prepare myself for this kind of game. Yeah, we’ll see.”
No. 2 Naomi Osaka vs. Aliza Cornet
With all the recent chaos – in the world and, not coincidentally, tennis – Naomi Osaka has been the WTA’s most consistent performer in Grand Slams. She’s won three of the last eight contested. While the Olympics in her home country are, at best, uncertain, the 2019 AO champion is looking to redeem herself after losing to Cori Gauff in the Australian Open’s third round a year ago.
More recently, Osaka lost to Serena Williams 2-6, 6-2, 7-10 in an Adelaide exhibition Thursday.
“I just tried to have fun and experiment a little,” she said. “Like, I feel like there’s a lot of shots that I’m missing. I would love to be able to do them properly, be confident with how I feel about it. Drop shots is one of those shots. I feel like I'm getting better at slicing.
“My mind doesn’t really stress too much on exhibitions. It was just fun for me to share the court with Serena and just see fans in the audience.”
Cornet took down Ajla Tomljanovic in three sets Monday to set up a first-time encounter with Osaka.
No. 6 Iga Swiatek vs. Kaja Juvan
Less than four months ago, few knew her name.
And then Swiatek won all seven of her matches at Roland Garros – all in straight sets, compiling a ludicrous 84-28 advantage in games. The Polish teenager carried off her first major title and announced herself to the tennis world. Her life changed dramatically.
“Right now I feel like there are more eyes on me,” she said Sunday. “It isn’t constant. It’s not bothering. It’s really nice. Obviously, I have more media obligations. Sometimes I have to just, I don’t know, change my planning or change, like, preparation for the tournament because I know I'm going to have more stuff to do.”
Her next task is to face Juvan, who defeated Yafan Wang in the first round. Juvan, a 20-year-old from Slovenia, knows something about precocity. Last year at Roland Garros she stunned three-time Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber in the first round.
DAY 3: ORDER OF PLAY
Margaret Court Arena - 11:00 a.m. start
GIORGI, Camila (ITA) vs. KENIN, Sofia (USA) 
SABALENKA, Aryna (BLR)  vs. KANEPI, Kaia
CORNET, Alizé (FRA) vs. OSAKA, Naomi (JPN) 
BARTY, Ashleigh (AUS)  vs. BOGDAN, Ana (ROU)
WILLIAMS Venus (USA) vs. KVITOVA, Petra (CZE) 
1573 Arena - 11:00 a.m. start
KONTA, Johanna (GBR)  vs. PERA, Bernarda (USA)
JUVAN, Kaja (SLO) vs. SWIATEK, Iga (POL) 
MUGURUZA, Garbine (ESP)  vs. VAN UYTVANCK, Alison (BEL)
Court 5 - 10:30 a.m. start
ROGERS, Shelby (USA) vs. PETERSON, Rebecca (SWE)
PEGULA, Jessica (USA) vs. BARTHEL, Mona (GER)
BOLSOVA, Aliona (ESP) vs. BOUZKOVA, Marie (CZE) 
JABEUR, Ons (TUN) / MCHALE, Christina (USA) vs. SAKKARI, Maria (GRE) / VEKIC, Donna (CRO)
Court 6 – 10:30 a.m. start
RAINA, Ankita (IND) / VAN DER HOEK, Rosalie (NED) vs. AOYAMA, Shuko (JPN) / SHIBAHARA, Ena (JPN) 
Court 7 - 10:30 a.m. start
DUAN, Yingying (CHN) / ZHENG, Saisai (CHN)  vs. GADECKI, Olivia (AUS) / WOOLCOCK, Belinda (AUS)
PODOROSKA, Nadia (ARG)  vs. MINNEN, Greet (BEL)
SASNOVICH, Aliaksandra (BLR) vs. BEGU, Irina-Camelia (ROU)
AIAVA, Destanee (AUS) vs. SIEGEMUND, Laura (GER) 
ARRUABARRENA, Lara (ESP) / CHRISTIAN, Kaitlyn (USA) vs. SIEGEMUND, Laura (GER) / ZVONAREVA, Vera (RUS) 
KREJCIKOVA, Barbora (CZE) / SINIAKOVA, Katerina (CZE)  vs. AIAVA, Destanee (AUS) / SHARMA, Astra (AUS)
Court 8 - 10:30 a.m. start
MERTENS, Elise (BEL)  vs. HIBI, Mayo (JPN)
GAUFF, Coco (USA)  vs. BOULTER, Katie (GBR)
SEVASTOVA, Anastasija (LAT) vs. PAVLYUCHENKOVA, Anastasia (RUS) 
KICHENOK, Lyudmyla (UKR) / OSTAPENKO, Jelena (LAT)  vs. GAUFF, Coco (USA) / MCNALLY, Catherine (USA)
KOSTYUK, Marta (UKR) / SASNOVICH, Aliaksandra (BLR) vs. MUHAMMAD, Asia (USA) / PEGULA, Jessica (USA)
Court 10 - 10:30 a.m. start
MYERS, Abbie (AUS) / POPOVIC, Ivana (AUS) vs. GARCIA PEREZ, Georgina (ESP) / KALASHNIKOVA, Oksana (GEO)
JURAK, Darija (CRO) / STOJANOVIC, Nina (SRB) vs. RYBAKINA, Elena (KAZ) / SHVEDOVA, Yaroslava (KAZ)
BABOS, Timea (HUN) / MLADENOVIC, Kristina (FRA)  vs. KRUNIC, Aleksandra (SRB) / TREVISAN, Martina (ITA)
NICULESCU, Monica (ROU) / TIG, Patricia Maria (ROU) vs. KLEPAC, Andreja (SLO) / MERTENS, Elise (BEL) 
BLINKOVA, Anna (RUS) / KUDERMETOVA, Veronika (RUS)  vs. RISKE, Alison (USA) / TOMLJANOVIC, Ajla (AUS)
RUS, Arantxa (NED) / ZIDANSEK, Tamara (SLO) vs. KALINSKAYA, Anna (RUS) / KUZMOVA, Viktoria (SVK)