The Australian Open Play-off begins at Melbourne Park today, with the incentive of winning a wildcard into the 2011 Australian Open looming large. This year sees the women’s draw compete in a round-robin format before progressing to knockout quarterfinals, while for the 32 men, each match is potentially their last as they do battle in a knockout event.
With the top four men’s seeds – Peter Luczak, Marinko Matosevic, Carsten Ball and Matt Ebden – receiving a bye into the next round, Day 1’s action sees the top women looking to begin their campaigns with a victory.
“Centre court” for the Australian Open Play-off is Court 8, and the first day’s play will see some fascinating contests. As in past years, the 2010 Play-off will pit the fearlessness of youth against some experienced players, meaning that no match will be easy, even for the top seeds.
No.1 seed Alicia Molik (Vic) and Queensland’s Jade Hopper kick off the action, with Molik
looking to repeat her 2006 effort, where she took out the event. These two met in last year’s Play-off, with Molik an easy straight sets winner.
Returning from a lay-off is former world No.4 Jelena Dokic, who takes on local teenager
Viktorija Rajicic. Dokic spent the second half of the year off the court, recovering from
injury and changing her coach. Now mentored by Dutchman Glenn Schaap, she seems to recovered the fire that saw her capture the public imagination with an emotional run to the Australian Open quarterfinals in 2009.
Her opponent is no easybeat however, with Rajicic boasting a powerful forehand despite
her age. These matches are always dangerous for the experienced player, with the younger Rajicic having nothing to lose against a favoured Dokic.
Second seed Sophie Ferguson (NSW) is another to face a tricky test first up. She takes on Monika Wejnert, who stunned the field in 2008 to reach the final here. Also a former Optus 18s Champion, Wejnert has been looking ahead to this event and could well pose problems for the 123rd ranked Ferguson.
Rounding out the Court 8 action is the men’s match of the day between Jason Kubler and Sean Berman. The world No.1 junior as of mid-2010, Kubler decided against defending his Optus 18s Championship crown last week to prepare for this event; it was Berman who claimed it in his absence.
The pair has met twice, sharing the honours, but it was Berman who upset the more fancied Kubler on the way to the 2010 Australian Open Juniors final. It will be an absorbing contest to watch, especially given the different preparations of combatants.
Other matches of interest include a rematch of the Optus 18s Girls’ final from Saturday
between Ashling Sumner and the victorious Isabella Holland, and the match between fifth seed Olivia Rogowska and Belinda Woolcock (both Vic). Rogowska reached the Play-offs final last year, but suffered a disappointing loss in Bendigo just a few weeks ago.
All matches on Court 8 are being streamed live for web, iPhone and iPad at
Day 1 matches
Dane Propoggia (NSW) vs. James Lemke (Vic)
Maverick Banes (Qld) vs. Ben Mitchell (Qld)
Joel Lindner (Qld) vs. Luke Saville (SA)
Mark Verryth (Vic) vs. Jared Easton (Qld)
Adam Feeney (NSW) vs. Colin Ebelthite (SA)
James Duckworth (NSW) vs. Matthew Barton (NSW)
Sean Berman (Vic) vs. Jason Kubler (Qld)
Matt Reid (NSW) vs. Michael Look (Qld)
 Alicia Molik (Vic) vs. Jade Hopper (Qld)
Alison Bai (ACT) vs.  Sophie Letcher (Qld)
Ashleigh Barty (Qld) vs.  Tammi Patterson (Vic)
 Jelena Dokic (NSW) vs. Viktorija Rajicic (Vic)
 Sophie Ferguson (NSW) vs. Monika Wejnert (Qld)
Ashling Sumner (Qld) vs.  Isabella Holland (Qld)
Belinda Woolcock (Vic) vs.  Olivia Rogowska (Vic)
 Jessica Moore (WA) vs. Azra Hadzic (Vic)