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Samantha Stosur

 

Samantha Stosur and Casey Dellacqua hope that training in the Australian heat over the past few months will give them an advantage in their second-round matches on Wednesday.

In Stosur’s case, it was in occasional bouts of hot weather in Sydney, while Dellacqua got her best preparation last month when she won the wildcard playoff at Melbourne Park.

“The hotter the better for me,” Dellacqua said. “If it’s 40 degrees, I’ll be happy.”

Stosur echoed her compatriot’s thoughts, but mentioned a more practical connection to the scorching weather. “You get that (faster) response from the court and the balls when it’s hot and the sun is shining,” she said.

All the dynamics should be in her favour when she faces Tsevtana Pironkova on centre court at Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday night.

The Australian has a 3-0 career edge over the 26-year-old Bulgarian, who played three qualifying matches and five main draw matches to win the Apia International in Sydney last week.

Pironkova is an unconventional player, a sleeper who rarely made an impression except at Wimbledon where she was a 2010 semi-finalist and a 2011 quarter-finalist. Both years she upset five-time champion Venus Williams by identical scores of 6-2 6-3.

She is not averse to slicing the ball off both sides, nor is she reluctant about moving over to the forehand side in order to hit her much more dependable backhand.

Stosur has to play her usual aggressive game and not get caught in the web of her opponent’s varied, low-trajectory shots. Playing a 10th match in 13 days, Pironkova is surely going to wilt at some point – heat or no heat.

Pironkova is a crowd-pleaser, particularly with the men. There were boos during the Sydney presentation ceremony last week when she offered thanks to “my boyfriend,” who was at home in Bulgaria.

Dellacqua has never played her Wednesday opponent, No. 19 Kirsten Flipkens, who was a surprise 2013 semi-finalist at Wimbledon in a surprise-filled year that wound up with Marion Bartoli holding the Venus Rosewater dish. There are similarities between Dellacqua and Flipkens – both are 28 and 165cm tall – but it’s easy to tell them apart. Dellacqua, No. 120, is the left-hander.

She is also a battler who underwent serious shoulder surgery in 2009 and foot surgery in 2010. “The labrum was torn off the bone in two places,” she said about the shoulder operation, “and a couple of other bits and pieces. It was a full, pretty much, clean up.”

It certainly was successful, because she may be playing her best tennis. She was impressive in doubles in 2013, reaching the finals of Wimbledon and the Australian and US Opens with compatriot Ashleigh Barty.

Also on Wednesday, the Chinese pair of Li Na and Zheng Jie will be tested by a younger generation. Li, after beating last year’s Australian Open junior winner, 16-year-old Ana Konjuh of Croatia, now faces another 16-year-old, Belinda Bencic, the 2013 French and Wimbledon junior champion. Zheng takes on potent-stroking American Madison Keys, 18.

Serena Williams plays No. 104 Vesna Dolonc of Serbia, and plans to take a “go with the flow and pretend it’s not there” attitude regarding the heat.

In men’s action, defending champion Novak Djokovic meets 26-year-old Leonardo Mayer of Argentina, whom he ‘out-titles’ by 41-0 margin.

Aussie Matthew Ebden is up against fasting-rising Canadian – yes another one – Vasek Pospisil in a featured night match on Rod Laver Arena, and the ever-enigmatic Ernests Gulbis plays the increasingly-inconsistent Sam Querrey.

TOM’S INTREPID TIPS

Stosur vs Pironkova
There’s always a little drama with Stosur, but she should outplay Sydney champion Pironkova. Stosur in three.

Djokovic vs L. Mayer
Djokovic may lose his way – temporarily – against Mayer in the heat, but not for too long. Djokovic in four.

S. Williams vs Dolonc
Will Serena lose more than the three games she did in the first round against Barty? Yes. Still, Serena in straight.

Chardy vs Dolgopolov
Frenchman Chardy upset Juan Martin del Potro at Melbourne Park last year, and unfortunately for Dolgopolov, he feels at home in the air Down Under. Chardy in four.

Dellacqua vs Flipkens
Aussie southpaw Dellacqua is at ease in torrid conditions, and that will make the difference against Flipkens. Dellacqua in three.

Gulbis vs Querrey
Gulbis showed impressive grit in his first round and does so again against rangy American Querrey. Gulbis in four.

Li vs Bencic
It’s been a terrific run for 16-year-old Swiss qualifier Bencic, but two-time Australian Open finalist Li, 31, gives her a lesson. Li in three.  

Andujar vs Janowicz
The plodding Spaniard Andujar and the prodigious Pole Janowicz – it’s a steam-bath match, and Janowicz melts. Andujar in five. 

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