Four of the first-round matches worth watching (though, for one of them, turn the sound down, or off).
Caroline Wozniacki vs Anastasia Rodionova:
Yes, Rodionova, a Russian-born Australian, is an official ambassador for Guide Dogs Victoria and apparently “visits puppies when she is back in Melbourne”. But that does not mean that Rodionova, who switched nationalities just a few years ago, can be assured of the overwhelming crowd support when she plays Denmark’s world number one. Rodionova has a reputation for gamesmanhip. Wozniacki, meanwhile, is universally liked and last year endeared herself to the locals with her tall story of being attacked by a baby kangaroo while strolling around the city. If this was a populartity contest, Wozniacki would win in straight sets. Expect the same result on the court.
Victoria Azarenka vs Heather Watson:
One thing Watson has in her favour is past experience of playing a shrieker at the slams. At last year’s US Open, Watson played and lost against Maria Sharapova, and at this tournament she has been paired with someone who is even louder than Sharapova. Tune in, turn the sound down. Azarenka, the world number three from Belarus, prepared for the Australian Open by beating China’s Li Na in the final of the Sydney tournament; Watson will do well to win a set at Melbourne Park.
Aravane Rezai vs Shuai Peng:
Rezai required a wild card to get through the gates this season, a year after the horrific experiences of her last visit to Melbourne Park. Rezai’s father and boyfriend had a confrontation during last year’s Australian Open, which resulted in Arsalan Rezai being banned from women’s tennis. Aravane Rezai, a Frenchwoman of Iranian descent, would later file a complaint against her father for “harassment, intentional violence and death threats, and swindling her out of tens of thousands of Euros”.
Jelena Dokic vs Anna Chakvetadze:
Each will be bringing quite a back-story on court with them. Both tales involve their respective fathers. Dokic has reunited with her father, Damir, while it was disclosed recently that Chakvetadze is still traumatised by memories of the night that a gang broke into her family home in 2007 and assaulted her and her father. This month’s Hobart tournament was her first competitive tennis since last summer’s Wimbledon as she missed the second half of the year because of dizziness.