Sakkari and Tsitsipas Handed Tough Draws
Greece’s Maria Sakkari and Stefanos Tsitsipas got difficult draws for the Australian Open. Cyprus’ Marcos Baghdatis will also compete in the main draw.
World number 51 Maria Sakkari will look to build on her previous Australian Open success, as she reached the second round as a qualifier in 2016 and made the third round in 2017. She starts off against the in-form Czech Katerina Siniakova. Siniakova, the world number 59, reached the final of the warm-up tournament in Shenzhen, China just last week. She pushed world number one Simona Halep to three sets in the final, after taking out former world number one Maria Sharapova in the semifinals. Sakkari and Siniakova had actually played each other once before, in the first round of Wimbledon last year. Sakkari won the match in straight sets. The winner will either play world number four Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, or Serbian qualifier Ivana Jorovic, in the second round.
Stefanos Tsitsipas is already off to a good start in 2018 as he reached the quarterfinals of the tournament in Qatar and currently sits at a career-high ranking of 80 in the world. The 19-year-old sensation will be competing in his first Australian Open main draw, as will his opponent, Denis Shapovalov of Canada, the world number 50. Tsitsipas and Shapovalov are the two youngest players in the top 100 of the world rankings, and this is by far the most anticipated first round match of the entire tournament on the men’s side. The two have never played each other on the professional level, though they have played on the junior level, with the Canadian leading the head-to-head series 2-1. Shapovalov won their last meeting 4-6 7-6 6-2, which was in the semifinals of the 2016 Wimbledon junior boys’ tournament. The winner of this match will take on either former finalist and current world number 15 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, or American qualifier Kevin King. Things could potentially be even more difficult in the third round, against world number 17 and home favorite Nick Kyrgios of Australia.
Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus, the 2006 runner-up, will start against Indian qualifier Yuki Bhambri in the first round. The two have never played against each other before, and Bhambri is currently ranked 121 in the world, while Baghdatis is at 101 in the rankings (though his career-high is number 8). It should be noted that Bhambri is a former junior number one, and actually defeated Greek Alexandros Georgoudas in the final of the 2009 Australian Open junior boys’ tournament. Despite his junior success, the 25-year-old Indian has only been able to get up to number 88 in the men’s rankings. The winner of this match will take on either two-time semifinalist David Ferrer of Spain, or 30th-seeded Andrey Rublev of Russia, who also happens to be one of the best young players in the game. World number three Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria would likely be the third round opponent for the winner.
All three of Sakkari, Tsitsipas, and Baghdatis are set to play on Monday in Melbourne. Sakkari will play the second match on Court 19 after 11:00 AM local time, so she will likely start around 1:00 PM local time. Tsitsipas will play the third match on Show Court 2, and Baghdatis will play the third match on Court 8.