Week 1 is in the book and week 2, you’re up! Svetlana Kuznetsova and Irina-Camelia Begu kicked off main draw proceedings at the 2017 Apia International in Sydney and it was Kuznetsova who continued her solid start to the year with a 6-1 6-4 victory. Kuznetsova was 6-1 4-0 up before Begu reeled off four games in a row. Kuznetsova steadied the ship to win the last two games comfortably.
Daria Kasatkina fought back from a set and a break down to record a first round win over Timea Babos, 2-6 6-4 6-3. It was not a vintage display by Kasatkina but I was impressed that she managed to fight back and prevail in three sets – winning when you’re not playing your best is a valuable attribute to have.
Kasatkina was overwhelmed early on by an in-form Babos who was crunching winners all over the shop. The serve was also firing for Babos who led 6-2 3-1 at one stage. However, Babos was unable to sustain her level and the errors started to flow as Kasatkina was able to lengthen the rallies.
Eugenie Bouchard scored an excellent win, her first of 2017, with a 7-6(1) 6-2 victory over Zhang Shuai. Bouchard didn’t get off to the best of starts in Brisbane but this was a good start in Sydney against a higher ranked opponent. Genie’s press conference is linked below…
The week before a Slam always produces some withdrawals, and Sydney had its fair share on Sunday. Karolina Pliskova (thigh), Elina Svitolina (viral illness) and Sloane Stephens (foot) all pulled out before main draw action started prompting two reshuffles of the draw and rendering my preview mostly obsolete 😂
There was also a retirement in the other first round match to be played as Yulia Putintseva advanced to the second round, leading 6-4 2-3 against Belinda Bencic who was forced to retire due to a broken toenail sustained at the Hopman Cup. Belinda was kind enough to share this on Twitter (I won’t share this here but you can see her big toe for yourself on her social media accounts!)
I’d set my alarm for Bencic-Putintseva and while I was disappointed it ended prematurely, there was some superb tennis on show. Both were hitting very well from the baseline with plenty of winners. Putintseva won the last 12 points of the first set and broke serve largely thanks to Bencic who committed three double faults serving at *4-4.
Bencic took a medical time-out at the end of the first set; she was clearly in pain and hampered with her movement. Bencic started swinging at the ball and going for her shots in ultra-aggressive mode and it was actually working as she hit some superb winners! However, after losing the early break Bencic pulled the plug. It was nice to see such a warm embrace at the net between Belinda and Yulia as Belinda seemed to be explaining her injuries… I think she had an issue with her finger too?
Love this haha!
If you thought the withdrawals in Sydney were bad, Hobart has taken it to a whole new level. There are SIX lucky losers in the draw after Naomi Osaka was forced to withdraw on Sunday.
The first round in Hobart got underway with two of the three seeds in action departing in the first round. Shelby Rogers defeated the number two seed, Anastasija Sevastova, 6-2 1-6 6-4, while the 19-year-old Australian wildcard, Lizette Cabrera had a superb win over the number five seed, Misaki Doi, 6-4 5-7 7-5.
The only seed that did progress was Monica Niculescu who saw off Jelena Jankovic, 6-2 6-3. JJ seemed to have a problem with her foot (she also took a MTO in her first match in Shenzhen last week) and generally seemed in a rather foul mood. When you’ve got an injury problem and you’re not feeling your best, I can imagine that Niculescu is the last player you want to see on the other side of the net.
Sadly, Sloane Stephens has also pulled out of the Australian Open. There’s a growing list of WTA players who will be sitting on the sidelines for the first Slam of 2017.
And finally, I posted a newly revamped Match Points summary post to wrap up the 2017 Brisbane International. I’ll try and do more of these as they are nice to look back at at the end of the year!