Set Points, Wuhan Day 1: Safarova sets up Pliskova encounter, a bad day for the Swiss

Set PointsLucie, Lucie, Lucie… that’s three Lucie’s to match her number of hard court wins in 2016! 😉

Safarova scored a decent first round win over Varvara Lepchenko, 7-5 6-3. The story of the first set was missed break point opportunities – the first 14 break points (8 for Varvara and 6 for Lucie) were all missed/saved. It was 15th time lucky and Lucie who got the break with an absolutely stunning forehand return winner. Lucie served out the first set to 15.

As is often the case, the breaks came thick and fast at the start of the second set. From a 7% success rate on break points in the first set, the pair were 100% in the second set! Lucie recovered from 0-2 down in the second set and won six of the last seven games.

The serve was a bit off for Lucie, particularly in the first set, but the forehand came to the rescue down break points. She was controlling points nicely at the end and moves forward to the second round where she will play Karolina Pliskova in the first of Monday’s night matches.

I was interested to see Kvitova’s former coach, Frantisek Cermak come on at the coaching changeover for Lucie… this was news to me! My guess would be that Rob Steckley is not doing Asia since he has a young family.

Sending many hugs the way of Belinda Bencic… the Swiss player was forced to retire midway through the second set of her match against Svetlana Kuznetsova. Bencic slipped moving forward (she was about to put away a ball on game point to lead 5-2 second set) and landed very heavily on her backside. It looked really painful and compounds a string of injuries that have been derailed her 2016 season. Here’s hoping BB has more luck in 2017. I’d be shocked if she plays again this year…

Kuznetsova advances to the second round with a 6-3 3-4 retirement win. Sveta was starting to have her customary wobble from a set up but she had played some very neat tennis in the first set, hitting 10 winners to just two unforced errors.

It was an all round rough day for the Swiss… just after Belinda retired, Timea Bacsinszky was vomiting into a bucket after dropping the first set to Louisa Chirico, 3-6. She battled on but retired midway through the second set. Get well soon, Timea!

In other matches…

Roberta Vinci claimed a solid win over Monica Puig, 6-3 6-3. There were a few injury concerns for Roberta after the US Open but she dispelled them with an efficient display.

Ekaterina Makarova defeated Sabine Lisicki in under an hour with a 6-1 6-2 victory. I’m sad about what’s happening to Sabine, who is down to 113 in the rankings.

Laura Siegemund beat Danka Kovinic, 6-7(4) 7-5 6-4 in an absolute epic lasting three hours and 20 minutes – there were nine breaks of serve in the final set.

Irina-Camelia Begu saved a match point to beat Elizaveta Kulichkova, 4-6 7-6(4) 6-2. Kulichkova, who has struggled with injuries after a bright start to the year, was trying to seal her first win on the WTA main draw win since April. Kulichkova had beaten Nicole Gibbs and Alison Riske to qualify for the main draw.

I missed most of Tokyo (my Wi-Fi in Wales was patchy to say the least) but it was a noteworthy week as Caroline Wozniacki won her first title in 18 months, defeating Naomi Osaka, 7-5 6-3 in the final.

I’m delighted to see both doing well; Wozniacki seems to be thriving now healthy although she did have an injury in the final which could threaten her participation in Wuhan. I’m kind of hoping she plays smart and decides to rest up. I did manage to catch Osaka’s 6-2 6-1 win over Dominika Cibulkova in the second round which was hugely impressive. Without doubt, Naomi’s the real deal. She has a nice way about her and i’m looking forward to following her progress in the future.

And if you’re not already following Naomi on Twitter but then go and do it, she’s awesome.

Loved this piece from Reem Abulleil about Daria Kasatkina. This article explains why Daria was forced to qualify for Wuhan because she missed the entry deadline! It also sounds like the long year is finally catching up with her which is not a surprise considering it is Daria’s first full year on tour. Well worth a read…

A few interesting comments from the top players in press. Muguruza spoke about nerves and wanting it “too much”, which I thought was interesting because she has looked rather despondent at times on court this year.

And finally, Simona Halep spoke about the hamstring injury that forced her to pull out of Tokyo… more serious than I previously thought.

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