In my preview for Angelique Kerber’s second round match against Daria Kasatkina, i’d written about how close Kasatkina had come to upsetting a notable seed having missed match points against the likes of Roberta Vinci, Sloane Stephens, Karolina Pliskova and Garbiñe Muguruza. On Tuesday in Sydney, Kasatkina finally got the big win!
Kasatkina has been struck with nerves before and it was no surprise to see she was feeling it in the second set! I’m so chuffed for her that she managed to secure the win.
It was a disappointing performance from Kerber but i’m not actually that concerned for Melbourne. It all depends on the draw but I think she will be OK. Kerber did produce a touch of magic down set point. Kasatkina actually played an aggressive point but Kerber came up trumps with a stunning half-volley winner from the baseline.
Three more upsets came thick and fast in the afternoon heat of Sydney; Eugenie Bouchard continued her excellent record over the number three seed, Dominika Cibulkova with a fourth win in five matches, winning 6-4 6-3. Barbora Strycova also maintained her dominance over the number nine seed, Roberta Vinci with a fourth straight win, 6-2 6-3. Finally, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova won an all-Russian battle with the number five seed, Svetlana Kuznetsova, 7-5 6-3.
Johanna Konta has made a promising start to the year as she eased past Daria Gavrilova, 6-1 6-3. I was most impressed with Konta’s return as she got such good depth that caught Gavrilova out on multiple occasions with miscued shots wide. There were some loose errors from Konta at times but she always remained positive in her gameplan. Gavrilova’s head started to drop at the very end but to her credit, the Aussie saved a couple of match points and found some intensity. Gavrilova earnt a break point to get back on serve in the second set but Konta has become so good at finding a big serve when she most needs it.
The match was tighter than the scoreline suggested and one area where Konta could have done better is on break points – 4/20 is a pretty ropey conversion rate! The Brit needed eight set points to close out the first set and six match points to get across the finish line. In the end, Konta was too strong and deserving of the win.
Caroline Wozniacki gained revenge for an Australian Open loss to Yulia Putintseva last year with a 6-0 7-5 win in Sydney on Tuesday. There were some interesting words from Caroline in press…
In the final match of the day, Agnieszka Radwanska fought back from a double break, 0-3 first set deficit in the first set to defeat Christina McHale in straight sets, 7-6(1) 6-2. Radwanska’s shot below got WTA’s “Shot of the day” but surely it had to be Kerber’s from above!
Sydney feels like it is flying by with Wednesday being quarter-finals day. I’m currently trying to adapt my body clock for the Australian Open and should be up for Konta-Kasatkina tomorrow which i’m looking forward to! I think it’s going to be a tough ask for Kasatkina against a strong-serving, Konta.
Radwanska plays Duan Ying-Ying who has won five matches in Sydney and also held three match points against her in Shenzhen last week. The other two quarter-finals will see Wozniacki take on Strycova and Bouchard up against Pavlyuchenkova… both tough to call.
In Hobart, the number three seed, Monica Niculescu reached the quarter-finals and was joined by Elise Mertens, Jana Fett and Veronica Cepede Royg, the latter who had an excellent win over Andrea Petkovic in three sets.
Mertens advanced after her opponent, Sachia Vickery retired after one game. Check out the video below where in fact they both take a medical time-out after the first game in a bizarre moment. Note both players would be in qualifying for the Australian Open with the draw announced tomorrow…
And finally, the big tennis news away from Australia is that Maria Sharapova will be returning to the tour in Stuttgart. Sharapova’s ban ends on the 26th of April but i’d assumed since the tournament starts before the ban ends that Sharapova would not be able to compete. Her first match will be on the Wednesday, which does normally include first round matches since its Fed Cup the weekend before. Still, I wasn’t expecting this!
With the calibre of the draw in Stuttgart, there could be a BLOCKBUSTER first rounder. I just hope the WTA streaming is all sorted for Stuttgart. It’s one of my favourite tournaments anyway but it will be fascinating to see who Maria is drawn against in the first round.