Australian Open: What you need to know

ICYMI: Best of Day 3

DAY 4 MATCHES TO WATCH

Elina Svitolina posted this on Twitter after her first-round victory over Marie Bouzkova:

Just wait until Day 4, when the No. 5 seed meets Coco Gauff – the Wunderkind Down Under – in a sizzling second-round match.

One year ago at Melbourne Park, Gauff won her first three matches, against Venus Williams, Sorona Cirstea and finally the 2019 champion, Naomi Osaka. Gauff actually took the first set from eventual champion Sofia Kenin in the fourth round before falling to earth.

All this at the age of 15.

Now 16, Gauff is ranked No. 48 – and rising. She took out Jil Teichmann in the first round, 6-3, 6-2.

“No,” Gauff said in press afterward. “I don’t feel any pressure. This is only my second Australian Open, so I mean, I’m just going out there and having fun, and today I put way less pressure on myself than I did last week and you can kind of see how the match played that I kind of played a little bit more free than I was last week.”

Svitolina, 26, has reached the quarterfinals of her two previous tournaments this year. She exited at the hand of Elise Mertens in last week’s Gippsland Trophy. She’s looking to improve on her third-round effort here a year ago.

Gauff, meanwhile, has bulked up her second serve and is consciously trying to enjoy her tennis as much as so many of her fans around the world.

“I’m going to go out there and have fun and compete,” Gauff said. “She’s a great player and I know it’s going to be a tough match, but I’m just going to embrace the opportunity and try to play well under the pressure.”

The two have yet to meet.

TOP SEEDS IN ACTION

No. 1 Ashleigh Barty: She continues to be a proud representative for Vegemite, the popular Aussie food spread, but instead of bread she might consider trying it on ... bagels.

Yes, it was a smoking start for the local favorite as she defeated Danka Kovinic 6-0, 6-0.

Photo by Getty Images

“Yeah, scoreline-wise, yes, but I think the processes and the things we go through before a match and trying to execute that, that’s always a challenge,” Barty told reporters later. “I felt like tonight I had that spot on, which was really pleasing, to be able to roll with the momentum throughout the whole match was really good.”

Barty, who won last week’s Yarra Valley Classic, besting Garbine Muguruza in the final, gets fellow Aussie Daria Gavrilova, a wildcard, in the second round. Barty has won three of their four matches, most recently in Madrid, 2019, 6-1, 6-2.

No. 4 Sofia Kenin: This is a terrific second-round match, featuring a ton of momentum. Kenin is 12-3 in her past four events, while Kaia Kanepi is a startling 16-1. The 35-year-old has seen her ranking improve to No. 65 (from No. 105) in that time and was a finalist in last week’s Gippsland Trophy.

Kenin, the defending Australian Open champion, was unhappy with her 7-5, 6-4 first-round win over Australian wildcard Maddison Inglis. “I was obviously quite annoyed the whole match,” she admitted. “Yeah, obviously I was nervous. Obviously when she was playing, she’s playing the defending champion, so of course she’s more loose.”

Kanepi won their only previous meeting, in Rome, 2018, when Kenin was still a teenager.

ANOTHER `MAJOR’ FOE FOR PEGULA

Jessica Pegula took out two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka in the first round, 7-5, 6-4. The No. 61-ranked American looked sharp, converting four of seven break-point opportunities. Azarenka, who had been in a 14-day lockdown and required medical attention, made no excuses afterward.

Pegula was leading Kenin 7-5, 4-1 last week in the third round of the Yarra Valley Classic but lost in three sets.

“I’ve been playing really well,” Pegula said. “I played Elina Svitolina pretty close in Abu Dhabi. Yeah, next match I’m going to focus and go out there and try to do the same thing.”

That would be Samantha Stosur, your 2011 US Open champion. Stosur defeated fellow Australian wildcard Destanee Aiava in the first round.

The head-to-head is 1-1.

THREE FOR THE MONEY

Three qualifiers from the top half of the draw made it to the second round, none a better story than Mayar Sherif.

After the 24-year-old defeated fellow qualifier Chloe Paquet Tuesday, Sherif became the first Egyptian woman to win a Grand Slam main draw match.

“Obviously it means a lot because finally this is barrier that I had to pass, a mental barrier,” she said in her post-match press conference. “With the conditions that are here it was very, very tough to adapt to it, especially to adapt my game to it. Very, very happy with my accomplishment and I’m going for more.”

Her next opponent? Another qualifier, 20-year-old Kaja Juvan of Slovenia, who upset No. 13 seed Johanna Konta. They’ve never played.

Serbian qualifier Olga Danilovic surprised No. 16 Petra Martic in three sets. She next meets Shelby Rogers. Danilovic won their previous meeting in 2019 at Houston.

DOING THE MATH

No fewer than 11 American women reached the second round, meaning 17.2 percent of the surviving 64 players call the United States home. They are all ranked inside the WTA’s top No. 86 spots. Three of them are seeded: No. 4 Sofia Kenin, No. 10 Serena Williams and No. 22 Jennifer Brady.

UPSET WATCH

No. 5 Elina Svitolina vs. Cory Gauff (see above).

No. 6 Karolina Pliska vs. Danielle Collins: The 27-year-old American has reached the quarterfinals of her last two tournaments, last week’s Yarra Valley Classic and last year’s French Open. Perhaps more important, Collins beat Pliskova in the third round of the Yarra Valley event, winning a pair of tiebreakers.

No. 28 Donna Vecik vs. Nadia Podoroska: The rising Argentine won their only meeting, in qualifying for the 2016 US Open. Podoroska was ranked No. 259 at the time.