Stay tuned to Nick's Pick throughout the 2010 Australian Open for in-depth coverage of the tournament!
Vera Zvonareva (RUS) vs. Iveta Benesova (CZE)
Zvonareva is shaking off an ankle injury, but showed no ill effects of that in her first round victory over Kristina Kucova of Slovakia. She lost only two games and looked like her old self. She reached the semis here last year, and a potential match with Ana Ivanovic looms in the next round.
Benesova comes into the tournament ranked #45 in the world and won her first round match in straight sets. She reached the third round here back in 2006 and that is her best result at any Grand Slam.
Zvonareva is 2-1 against Benesova, having last beat her in 2008 on clay in Rome. Benesova is a good mover who is small, left-handed and capable of beating top players any day. Her serve is attackable and Zvonareva should be able to dominate play with her penetrating groundstrokes and devastating movement. The question is Zvonareva's ankle. If she is healthy, she will go far in this tournament, if not, than who knows? I look for Zvonareva to advance.
Nick's Pick - Zvonareva in 2 sets
Venus Williams (USA) vs. Sybille Bammer (AUT)
Venus quietly moved into the second round, beating Lucie Safarova 6-2, 6-2. Her best result down under was back in 2003, when she reached the finals. The Australian Open and the French Open are the two Grand Slams that Venus has yet to win.
Bammer is a 29-year old veteran who comes into the tournament ranked #55 in the world. She has had solid results at Grand Slams in her career, reaching the quarters at the 2008 US Open and the fourth round at the 2007 French Open. Her best result at the Australian was back in 2006 when she advanced to the third round.
Venus is 1-0 against Bammer with that win coming in the first round of the 2006 French Open. Bammer is a tough left-hander who will not go down without a fight. She has been around for a while and will not be surprised by anything Venus does. Venus will have to keep the unforced errors from the forehand side down to a minimum and keep her first serve percentage high. The court favors her game and when she comes to the net consistently she is very difficult to beat. I look for a tough two-set win for Venus.
Nick's Pick - V. Williams in 2 sets
Justine Henin (BEL) vs. Elena Dementieva (RUS)
Playing in her first Grand Slam since the 2008 Australian Open, Henin looked as if she had never left, beating Kirsten Flipkens in straight sets. Henin certainly has the talent to pull a 2009 US Open-Clijsters-like-run, but we will have to see if her health holds up. Don't be surprised if she is playing on final weekend!
It didn't take long for Dementieva to win her first round match, as she beat Vera Dushevina 6-1, 6-2 to advance. She's a former Aussie Open semifinalist, and is still looking for her first career Grand Slam title. There is no doubt that she has the talent, she just needs to stay focused mentally.
This is the 12th career meeting between Henin and Dementieva, with Henin holding a 9-2 advantage. This is the match that everyone has been looking forward to since the draw was announced. It is really a shame that one of these girls will lose so early in the tournament, but for the viewers it's great. I've said it before, and I will say it again: once the ball gets in play, there is no one better than Elena Dementieva. Her groundstrokes are unbelievable because of her fantastic movement, superb foundation and exquisite balance. The question with her has always been her serve, and if that is on, she will be alright.
I know that most people will favor Henin in this match. She can do it all and hit every shot in the book. She hits the slice, the dink, the dunk, the dip, and her movement is unparalleled. All eyes are on her throughout the tournament as people want to see if she can emulate Clijsters' return from last year. I just feel that the surface favors Dementieva and she has probably more match ready than Henin. If Dementieva's serve falters at all, Henin will pounce all over her. I look for a very tight match, but I think Dementieva will come out the victor in the end.
Nick's Pick - Dementieva in 3 sets
Jelena Jankovic (SRB) vs. Katie O'Brien (GBR)
Jankovic had a solid win in the opening round, taking out Monica Niculescu 6-4, 6-0. She reached the semis here in 2008, but lost in the fourth round to Marion Bartoli last year. I have a feeling that Jankovic is going to fare better in 2010 than she did in 2009. She is focused, determined, and ready to roll.
O'Brien, currently ranked #87 in the world, is playing in her second career Australian Open main draw. She qualified last year before falling to Monica Niculescu in the first round. This is only the second time in her career that she has reached the second round of a Grand Slam.
This is the first career meeting between the 23-year old O'Brien and the 24-year old Jankovic. O'Brien is going to have her work cut out for her in this match. Jankovic spent her off-season training at the IMG Academy Bollettieri tennis program and I can guarantee you that she worked as hard as anyone on the tour to get back into the zone. She is physically fit, playing aggressive tennis, and her strokes are some of the best (especially her backhand). I just feel like Jankovic is on a mission this year and it is going to take a lot to stop her.
Nick's Pick - Jankovic in 2 sets