First round action in Brisbane continued on Monday with a trio of three setters. The first match of the day was the most dramatic and will be tough to beat all year! Roberta Vinci saved five match points to beat Kateryna Bondarenko, 7-6(4) 6-7(4) 7-6(5) in two hours and 46 minutes. Vinci had been drawn to play Lesia Tsurenko; however, the Ukrainian was forced to pull out of the tournament due to a viral illness.
My favourite match of the day was the third match on Show Court 2 where Zhang Shuai came from a set down to beat Laura Siegemund, 4-6 7-6(3) 6-3. Zhang scored a virtual tiebreak bagel, recovering from 0-3 down in the second set tiebreak. It was a well fought match from both players with bundles of winners. The Chinese player advances to an intriguing second round tie with the number two seed, Dominika Cibulkova.
Of the six seeds in action in Brisbane, five of them have advanced to the second round which feels a surprise in itself after the unpredictability we witnessed on the WTA tour during much of 2016. Garbiñe Muguruza, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Elina Svitolina all won through to the second round. Muguruza needed three sets to get past Sam Stosur in what was a decent match. A recap of that match is included in my preview of Muguruza’s second rounder against Daria Kasatkina set for Tuesday night.
One interesting note about Svitolina is that she is not with Gabriel Urpi or Thierry Ascione in Brisbane.
Loved this insight from Svetlana Kuznetsova, who had an excellent first round win over Louisa Chirico, 6-2 6-4.
And it was a landmark win for Sveta!
In other matches, Ashleigh Barty and Asia Muhammad both enjoyed straight set wins and will get a shot at top ten players in the second round against Angelique Kerber and Karolina Pliskova respectively.
One first round match was held over until Tuesday with the 16-year-old Aussie, Destanee Aiava up a double break on Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the third set. While Mattek-Sands’s level was pretty erratic, I enjoyed watching Aiava for the first time. She was very nervous trying to close out the second set but I liked how she managed to reset after a couple of double faults, not get down on herself and channel her energy positively into the next point.
Auckland had a rainy day with just two main draw matches completed and one qualifying match still in progress. The only two winners on the first day were Lucie Safarova and Kurumi Nara. I’m delighted to hear that Lucie played a great first match, beating Denisa Allertova in an impressive scoreline, 6-1 6-2.
Here is a recap of Lucie’s match from Don Han on VAVEL USA.
Mona Barthel has had all kinds of health and injury woes over the past two years but i’m delighted to see she has made a positive start to the year by qualifying for the main draw in Auckland. Barthel will open against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. Currently ranked at 186 in the world, this is a great opportunity for Mona to score some valuable ranking points.
A couple of first round matches were in progress in Auckland and will recommence on Tuesday in what is a JAM-PACKED schedule.
Kiki Bertens leads Lauren Davis, 5-3
Naomi Osaka leads Annika Beck, 6-2 2-1
In Shenzhen, the top two seeds, Agnieszka Radwanska and Simona Halep, were both forced to three sets. Radwanska was on the brink of defeat but survived three match points to overcome an excellent performance from Duan Ying-Ying, 6-2 6-7(4) 7-5. Duan had forced a decider thanks to some huge hitting in the second set tiebreak.
Radwanska took a medical time-out at 4-4 for what appeared to be a blister on one of her fingers. Duan served for the match at *5-4 and didn’t do a great deal wrong with Radwanska producing two winners down match point. Duan, who had produced some aggressive yet patient hitting, lost her way a little at 5-5 as Radwanska kept her title defence alive by winning the final three games of the match.
This is the rally of the year so far from Radwanska and Duan.
Halep dropped the middle set of her first round match to Jelena Jankovic but ultimately prevailed, 6-1 3-6 6-3. WTA Insider posted a Q&A with Halep after her match.
I watched quite a bit of Hopman Cup action this morning as it’s being shown on British Eurosport. Most of the buzz was about Roger Federer but I was more interested to watch Belinda Bencic! BB defeated Heather Watson, 7-5 3-6 6-2 to get 2017 off to a solid start. Bencic had a mid-match wobble as she lost rhythm on her serve but she came through convincingly in the third set.
Not one for fashion really but I think Heather’s kit is great!
Bencic joined forces with Roger Federer in the mixed doubles to beat Watson and Dan Evans, 4-0 4-1. Belinda was the best player on the court in the mixed doubles! They are a great pair to watch and it is such a shame the mixed doubles is so short now.
And finally, Andrea Petkovic enjoyed a surprisingly routine win over Kristina Mladenovic, 6-2 6-1 in Hopman Cup action. As always, she was a hoot in her on-court interview.