Set Points, Rio Olympics Day 1: A big day for China as Zheng & Zhang win, Flipkens beats Venus

Set PointsThe biggest upset in singles by ranking on day 1 of Rio 2016 saw Zheng Saisai defeat the number four seed, Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-4 7-5. I’ve written a lot about Zheng in the past few months and how impressed I have been with her performances. Everything seemed to come together for her on this occasion as she played Radwanska at her own game with a wonderful blend of variety including some trusty moonballs at the end.

It was Zheng’s second top five win of the year having previously defeated Angelique Kerber in Doha earlier this year. Zheng served out the match at the second time of asking having failed at *5-4 where she was broken for the first time in the match.

For Radwanska this was her second straight first round loss at the Olympics. As well as Zheng played, it was a very disappointing display from Radwanska who has looked flat in her last few tournaments. Perhaps her nightmare journey to Rio was a cause of this performance as picked up in the article linked below by Tennis.com.

Looking further back, Radwanska has never really recovered from the loss to Pironkova at the French Open (led 6-2 3-0 but in damp conditions, Pironkova came back to win 6-3 in the decider) and also having invested so heavily on Wimbledon with her scheduling; the loss to Cibulkova in the fourth round, while not playing a bad match, was a brutal loss.

Also, Radwanska has struggled against players with variety – Bacsinszky in Miami and Siegemund in Stuttgart are two that spring to mind. It was odd in a way to see Zheng owning Radwanska up at the net and winning the majority of the cat and mouse points but the Chinese player has improved leaps and bounds in this department. Radwanska smashed her racquet in the second set which is VERY rare to see. In fact, i’m not sure I can even remember that happening before?!

Zhang Shuai of China saved three match points to defeat the number 12 seed, Timea Bacsinszky, 6-7(4) 6-4 7-6(7). Zhang had led throughout the entire third set, up a double break at *3-0 and then twice failing to serve out the match at *5-4 and *6-5. Bacsinszky turned the match around but then couldn’t take it with a 6-3 lead in the third set tiebreak. Watching on live scores was tough (couldn’t find a stream *sad face*). I’m not going to lie, i’m absolutely gutted for Timea as this was a brutal loss. Congrats of course to Zhang.

It could have been a hat-trick for the Chinese with Peng Shuai up against Heather Watson on court 3. The Brit went for a mid-match wander, failing to serve out the match in the second set leading 6-4 *6-5. Watson got tight, understandably, but stayed ahead in the third set and served for the win again at *5-3 against a battling but weary, Peng. On Watson’s first match point, Peng hit the line THREE TIMES… even Watson was laughing! Watson eventually converted on her third match point to win, 6-4 6-7(5) 6-3 and book a second round tie with Elina Svitolina.

The night session in Rio saw two more sizeable upsets as the number five and six seeds both joined Radwanska out on day 1; Kirsten Flipkens came from a set down and 3-5 down in the decider to oust Venus Williams, 4-6 6-3 7-6(5). I could only keep my eyes open for the first set, which was really entertaining. Flipkens held a mammoth nine-deuce seventh game with a majestic drop shot to lead 4-3. Venus, whose serve was back after labouring in Montreal, won the last three games to take the opening set.

Venus was two points from the win on three occasions as she tried to serve out the match at *5-3 in the third set. Flipkens roared back into life, failing to serve out the match at *6-5, but won a tight third set tiebreak. Mixed emotions with this one… gutted for Venus, particularly with the Olympics being one of her highest priorities of the year. At the same time, this is a massive win for Flipkens and the photos of her joy are touching.

Roberta Vinci is also out of Rio after she lost in straight sets to Anna Karolina Schmiedlova. The Slovak player thrashed Vinci in Zhuhai at the end of 2015, but she had won just one match on the WTA tour since January heading into the Olympics.

Madison Keys opened up proceedings on court 1 and had a relatively routine first round win, defeating Danka Kovinic, 6-3 6-3. The stats weren’t pretty (Keys 12W 33UE and Kovinic 7W 40UE) but it was a solid enough start for Keys who gets Kristina Mladenovic in the second round… tricky.

In the most anticipated match from the first round women’s draw, Eugenie Bouchard progressed into the second round with a comfortable win over Sloane Stephens, 6-3 6-3. Genie didn’t drop her serve once, saving three break points in her first two service games. I looked everywhere for a stream but it only seemed to be available in the US so stuck with Venus-Kirsten. Thanks to Max for a video of an insane rally in the match!

In another of the stand-out first round matches, Carla Suàrez Navarro came from a set down to defeat Ana Ivanovic, 2-6 6-1 6-2. Ivanovic came fast out of the blocks, playing one of her best sets of 2016. There were signs of things to come though as she wobbled trying to serve out the set having missed three set points on Suárez Navarro’s serve at 5-1 40-0*.

While Ivanovic became increasingly wayward, both on serve and off the ground, Suárez Navarro made a super comeback. She was hitting the ball cleanly in the decider, particularly off the backhand side. Ivanovic threatened a comeback but I was impressed how Suárez Navarro was able to fend off the challenge and she didn’t back off. Next up for the Spaniard is Ana Konjuh.

Daria Kasatkina had quite the escape, fighting from a set and a break down to see off Ons Jabeur, 3-6 7-6(4) 6-1. Jabeur failed to serve out the match at 6-3 *5-4 and then Kasatkina nearly blew a 6-0 lead in the second set tiebreak. Kasatkina seemed to settle in the decider as she broke three times for the win. In an intriguing second rounder, Kasatkina will play Zheng Saisai.

Errani secured her best win since April, fighting from a set down to defeat Kiki Bertens, 4-6 6-4 6-3. Next up is a repeat of the Dubai final against Barbora Strycova, who saved four set points in the first set to eventually overcome Yanina Wickmayer, 7-6(6) 6-1.

The Czechs went two out of two on day 1 as Lucie won! On an unstreamed court, Safarova beat Karin Knapp, 4-6 6-1 6-1. Lucie was one of seven (!) players to come from a set down to win their first round match on Sunday. Lucie’s draw has opened up (on paper at least) with Venus and Timea both out of her quarter and will play Flipkens in the second round.

There was a plenty of drama in the doubles as Kristina Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia were ousted in the first round, losing out to Misaki Doi and Eri Hozumi. The Japanese pair won a lopsided affair, 6-0 0-6 6-4. Caro and Kiki both took to Twitter afterwards to highlight a situation with their clothes that had unsettled them… not sure I really liked this as it came across as sour grapes with little acknowledgement of their opponents.

And this also happened in doubles haha!

After a tough loss in singles, Timea Bacsinszky teamed up with Martina Hingis for a first round win in doubles, beating Daria Gavrilova and Sam Stosur, 6-4 4-6 6-2.

And finally one mention of ATP… this was crazy from Kei!

Still with me? Attempting to recap day 1 was a challenge!

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