Guest Post: Day 1 at the 2016 Australian Open

Hey Everyone. I’m Morgan and this is quick guest post just to highlight my day at the Australian Open on Monday. It’s always a pleasure to read James’ blog so I’d like to give back with a write-up of my experiences from today.

My journey to the Australian Open was a little clunky – I was forced to catch two trains and a bus, but I eventually arrived at the gates a little before 11am. As I have a 3 day ground pass, I wasn’t able to access Rod Laver Arena or Margaret Court Arena, however there were plenty of gems in the outer courts I had noted down, the first of which was Viktoria Golubic vs Carla Suárez Navarro.

I hadn’t yet watched Golubic and I was intrigued to see a battle of the one handed backhands, a match-up that is rare in the woman’s game nowadays. The crowd was pro Swiss and there were plenty of red and white painted faces cheering Golubic on. Golubic got herself a break point in the opening game but that was as close as she’d get to cracking the CSN serve in the first set. Despite the fact that neither had massive serves, a strange pattern of holds began in the open game and only ended in the final game of the set.

Golubic pleasantly surprised me with some clever dropshots and nice angles on both wings. However it was clear from the get go that Suárez Navarro was a little bit stronger in all aspects of the game, and it was due to some good tactics and below average play by Suárez Navarro that Golubic was able to the control the first set. In the first set Viktoria was strong on her own serve, especially in the beginning, but despite a host of opportunities of Carla’s serve, she did not manage to break, giving CSN the chance to build her level. While I left at 5-4 in Suárez Navarro’s favour, it was clear to me that CSN would eventually break Golubic’s serve, which she did at 6-5, later closing the second set, 6-4.

My next stop was Yafan Wang against Maria Sakkari. I had a mind to see Wang after she managed to break her final qualifying round duck – she is known in some tennis circles for always seeming to lose the final qualifying round of grand slams, a duck she finally ended this year at AO. She faced fellow qualifier Sakkari from Greece, who had also qualified for the US Open last year. For some reason I had got it into my head that there would plenty of places to sit and watch. On arrival I was suddenly reminded about the size of the Chinese and Greek – especially Greek – communities in Melbourne. The stands were packed and littered with Greek flags and Greek painted faces.

The atmosphere seemed a little lethargic given it was a relatively close match. I soon found out why. Yafan Wang had just broken back at 3-5, and was then up 40-0 in the 4-5 game, to the disappointment of the largely pro-Sakkari audience. However Sakkari began to cling onto the game and the ugly side of the Greek crowd appeared, screaming and shouting louder than many crowds I’ve ever seen at AO, and down set point they starting a vicious and rowdy ‘Break-Break-Break’ chant that no doubt affected Wang.

There’s nothing wrong with patriotism, but in my opinion, this was crossing the line. The crowd should have a minimal role in the result, but in this match the aggressive screaming and shouting directed at Wang was a decent part of the reason she lost the first set. Wang later lost in 3 sets, letting Sakkari’s rather monotonic and basic game into the second round of a grand slam.

With the scoreboards at Melbourne Park playing up and my phone on low battery, I headed into Rod Laver Arena to check the schedule, and decided Rybarikova-Wickmayer would be my next move. I arrived in time to see Rybarikova miss a handful of set points at 5-3 in the second set due to a combination of huge Wickmayer winners and lucky netcords. It got to a point where Magda couldn’t help but smile and chuckle after missing yet another set point. Seeing how well she took Wicky’s sporadic play, I figured I’d support her in this match.

It ended up being a close affair. Rybarikova closed out the second set and managed to get up a break in the third at *4-3. Wickmayer fought back to get to 5-4 and then held two match points on Rybarikova’s serve at 5-4* 40-15*. Magda was not finished though, saving the first with a potentially nervy overhead, and the second with a big serve. Her serve helped her close out the game, and she snuck a break, riding the momentum. Her serve once again helped her, this time in claiming the match, and she was elated. Magda had a bad year last year but things seem to be looking up for 2016.

Sloane Stephens vs Qiang Wang was the next match on my radar. Partly because it was an interesting match but mostly because I’d been on the outside courts all morning and wanted to head into Hisense and watch a match in the relative shade of the roof. There were lengthy queues to enter Hisense, and I only managed to get in and grab a seat once Wang had taken the first set. I was glad I did choose this match, because an upset seemed to be in the making. Sloane looked tired and frustrated and some very loose play combined with Wang’s steely consistency saw Sloane lose the first 4 games of the second, to the dismay of the Americans in the crowd.

Wang was a little nervous and dropped her level for a little while, coinciding with Stephens stepping up and whacking her forehand the biggest she had in the match, and she reeled off 3 games in a row, and had 0-40 on Wang’s serve at 3-4. It would have been easy for Wang to do what Ostapenko did later in the day and choke away a set and 4-0 lead but instead she fought for that game and managed to hold, breaking Sloane’s serve in the next game for her best win since beating Wozniacki a few years ago.

I thought of catching Poots-Wozniacki, which I perhaps should have given the drama it became. Instead I left Hisense and headed back to the outside courts to see Oceane Dodin vs Kurumi Nara. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Nara given her ruthless treatment of Shuai Peng a few years ago at the Australian Open. But Dodin wasn’t endearing me to her game with her baseball so I joined Nara’s camp, which was a large part of the crowd.

I got to court 8 at the beginning of the tie break, which Nara was always in control of. Patrick Mouratoglou was also watching for some reason LOL and he left quickly after Dodin lost the first… Not exactly sure what he was doing there considering Serena only played an hour or two earlier. Maybe Dodin is at his academy? Nara raced through the second and the errors began to leak from Dodin. After the match finished I realized it was late afternoon, and I had to leave. All in all it was a good day with my personal highlight being the 3rd set of Rybarikova-Wickmayer, where Magda did so well to stave off two match points.

I hope everyone enjoyed reading this. Unfortunately no pictures because I didn’t bring my camera and my phone’s camera is very average to say the least. But I’ll try and bring my camera later in the week and grab some pictures.

Morgan

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