Stay tuned to Nick's Pick throughout the 2010 Australian Open for in-depth coverage of the tournament!
Sabine Lisicki (GER) vs. Petra Martic (CRO)
Lisicki is a product of the IMG Academy Bollettieri tennis program and she has steadily worked her way up the rankings. She comes in at #22 in the world, which is her career high. She's been to the third round of the Australian Open (2008) and she also reached the quarters of the 2009 US Open.
Martic is an 18-year old Croatian who is currently ranked #82 in the world. This is the first career Australian Open appearance for Martic and only the third time she been in the main draw of a Grand Slam.
Lisicki is 1-0 against Martic but that match took place all the way back in 2007. Martic is a very solid baseliner who hits the ball hard and covers the court well. She is still only very young and has an extremely bright future. This is not going to be an easy match for Lisicki as Martic has the tools to keep her on her toes. Lisicki has some of the biggest groundstrokes and serves of any woman on the WTA Tour, but sometimes she doesn't know when to change the pace and slow down. She is still learning about her game and it won't be long now until she is making her way even into the top 20.
Nick's Pick - Lisicki in 3 sets
Serena Williams (USA) vs. Urszula Radwanska (POL)
Serena is the defending champion at the Australian Open and if she is able to take home the title again it will be the 15th Grand Slam win of her career. She won the AP Female Athlete of the Year Award in 2009 and ESPN named her the second best tennis player of the decade behind Roger Federer. It will be interesting to see if she is able to repeat those results in 2010.
Urszula Radwanska is the 19-year old younger sister of Agnieszka and is a former Junior Grand Slam title winner. She is still looking to break through on the senior circuit and is playing in the main draw of the Aussie Open for the first time of her young career.
Serena is 1-0 against Radwanska, with that win coming at Wimbledon in 2008. I really feel that Serena has a great chance to win this tournament. She has had great success down under and the court really takes to her game. Radwanska will get a lot of balls back and make Serena work, but the relentless offensive power of the American will be too much for Radwanska.
Nick's Pick - S. Williams in 2 sets
Justine Henin (BEL) vs. Kirsten Flipkens (BEL)
Henin made her return to the WTA Tour a successful one earlier this month, by reaching the finals of Brisbane and beating Nadia Petrova and Ana Ivanovic along the way. The question for her is going to be her health. She is already being bothered by a leg injury, and we will have to keep an eye on that throughout the tournament. Also, she can't look forward to a possible match against Elena Dementieva in the second round.
Flipkens is a 24-year old veteran who comes into the tournament ranked #80 in the world and is looking to get into the second round of the Aussie Open for the second time in her career. She has a knack for drawing fellow Belgians, as she ran into Kim Clijsters in the third round of the 2009 US Open.
This is the first career meeting between Henin and Flipkens, but I am sure the two know each other having grown up in Belgium. While Henin isn't ranked right now, she is more than capable of winning this tournament. Like Clijsters at the 2009 US Open, she is the ultimate wild card. The question is going to be her movement. If the leg gives her problems, then she could be in trouble. She needs to be fully healthy to have a chance to take down the top women. I look for Henin to win this one, but keep an extra eye on her.
Nick's Pick - Henin in 2 sets
Maria Sharapova (RUS) vs. Maria Kirilenko (RUS)
Sharapova spent a lot of time at the Academy during the off-season working on her game. I watched her with her tremendous coach, Michael Joyce, and I would say that she is getting pretty close to looking like her old self again. That is a great sign for the WTA Tour as she is a big-time crowd pleaser both on and off the court.
Kirilenko is a 22-year old Russian who is currently ranked #59 in the world. It seems like her name has been around for a while, but she has never really had a major win. She has been to the fourth round of the Aussie Open, which is her best result at a Grand Slam in her career.
Sharapova is 2-1 against Kirilenko, but the two haven't played since 2006. Sharapova and Kirilenko are friends off the court, but on the court is another thing. Sharapova thrives when she plays other Russians and she is going to want to get off to a good start. We know Sharapova has the groundstrokes, but the question is going to be her serve and her movement. If her serve is working then she will be fine. If not, she could be in trouble. I see Kirilenko winning a set, but Sharapova will advance.
Nick's Pick - Sharapova in 3 sets