Day 2 – March 22, 2015
Day Two of the Miami Open saw the completion of the qualifying competitions and start of women’s first round action.
It really bothers me that main draw play begins before qualifying has completed. I think this is because Miami has no real reason to rush the start of the main draw: the tournament is two weeks long, and it was only a couple years ago when first round’s play would not start until Wednesday.
Back to the tennis. I started my day watching Daria Kasatkina vs. Kateryna Bondarenko on Court 1. As both players are in form – Kasatkina reaching the Quarterfinals at Indian Wells and Bondarenko the Fourth Round – this was a highly anticipated first round match-up. When I arrived to the site – Kasatkina was already up a set (6 – 2) but down a break in the second. While Kasatkina appeared to have lost concentration, Bondarenko was sharp. She took the ball extremely early, taking advantages of the looping backswing on the Russian’s forehand – running away with the second 6 – 1.
After a strategic bathroom break, Kasatkina seemed to calm down in the third set. She used much more topspin, drawing more errors from her Ukrainian opponent, and seemed to be cracking up forehand winners more often. I really admired the drive that both players showed in a set that seemed much closer than its 6 – 2 scoreline suggests. Bondarenko was passionate in the last games of the match, however, it was Kasatkina who came out the victor.
To me this was an impressive match from Daria. First, because she showed the mental fortitude which will be necessary if she successfully makes the transition into a Top 10 player. I also think that she showed herself that she can compete with good players on a consistent basis – a good win over Bondarenko almost legitimizes her deep run in Indian Wells. Given her recent results, I think that Kateryna will easily bounce back from this defeat.
After a lengthy lunch break, I headed over to court 8 to watch the second set of the match between Donna Vekic and Kiki Bertens. Before the match had begun, I was optimistic about Donna’s chances as she had beaten Bertens in both of their previous encounters (the second being last week in San Antonio).
The stands of court 8 were PACKED. It is rare to see so many people watching an outside court in Miami, let alone on the second day of the tournament. Being that she had lost the first set 6-3, I knew that either Donna wasn’t playing her best or that Kiki had figured out a solid game plan. Both players were hitting extremely flat of the ground, but it was Bertens who was managing to get more free points off the first serve. Towards the end of the second set, Donna became frustrated with herself, hitting two consecutive double faults to gift Bertens the match – 6 – 3, 7 – 5.
Bertens and Vekic are both interesting cases in women’s tennis. Both of them possess big serves and solid ground games, but fail to provide their best on a consistent basis. It’s hard to imagine that Bertens is the same player which catapulted into recognition after winning the Fes title in 2012 (wins over Simona Halep and Garbine Muguruza).
Vekic seems to go through long losing streaks before finding form at random points throughout the season (last year: Roland Garros third round, Tashkent final). However in her last five events, Donna has managed to win at least one match. To her fans this should represent an improvement in her consistency, it seems that she is recommitting to the game. It’s also tough to consider the fact that Vekic is still only nineteen because she has been in the media spotlight (not always about tennis results) since her 2012 run to the Tashkent final. I’m happy to see that Donna is signed up to compete in the qualifying competition at the Katowice Open, and am hoping this result does not mar her recent progress.
My last two matches of the day were out on Court 6. The first of these was between Slovakia’s Jana Cepelova and Spain’s Lara Arruabarrena. Jana was playing heaps better than yesterday, mixing up slices and power shots which really troubled Arruabarrena. It is surprising that Lara held a 2-0 lead in the pair’s head-to-head, as the match-up really seemed to play into Jana’s hands. This is because Arruabarrena’s shots bounced up right into the Slovakian’s strike-zone.
I can’t help but comment on how enchanting Cepelova’s backswings are (forehand pictured below). I must be the early preparation but it seems that Cepelova relies on perfect timing more so than other players. Hitting winners from both wings, Cepelova took the match 6-2, 6-2. I hope that Jana can capitalize on somewhat fortunate placement in the main draw (against Vesnina) to get some much needed ranking points/momentum going into the clay season.
Lastly, I watched the battle between Tatjana Maria and Magda Linette. I was curious to see if the Polish player could recreate the form which saw her defeat Paszek yesterday. I was not disappointed, Linette was technically sound of both sides and showed a willingness to come to the net and finish off points. Magda’s game plan centered around moving Maria wide to the backhand side and then coming in off the floating slice – very effective. The match was filled with emotion, as Linette is a very animated competitor (frequently shouting “come on” in English, Polish, and Croatian?) and Maria desperately needed this win – having reached the third round here last year and currently experiencing a 1 – 8 start to the season.
For having a game which relies on variety, Maria’s game is fairly predictable. She mostly just slaps at her forehand, leading to sometimes uncontrollable errors, while others times throwing up lob-ish shots. Contrary to last year’s match against Bencic, she was not slicing the forehand as often as I was expecting. The backhand is certainly the weak spot in her game. While the slice might throw off some players, it is painfully easy to read. Maria is dealing with the false choice between slapping the forehand or making it a defensive shot – something she could reconcile by simply adding spin to the forehand. On the other hand, Magda could have done a better job realizing that Maria’s forehand was doing the damage, and simply attacked the backhand side. Playing better when it mattered, Linette took the match 7-6, 6-3.
Much to my annoyance, I left the tournament premises minutes before it was announced that the Zarina Diyas v. Olga Govortsova had been moved from Court 1 – which was behind schedule – out to Court 8. With the tournament’s no re-entry policy I had to call it a day.
Thanks for reading today’s post!