Sharapova had another practice session in the afternoon and then played the first of the night matches, returning with an impressive win over Roberta Vinci, 7-5 6-3. Sharapova’s movement and footwork was laboured to begin with, perhaps a mixture of both rust and nerves, but she soon settled.
The highlight of the win was Sharapova’s serve – after being broken to 30 in her first service game, Sharapova held nine service games in a row. The Russian player hit 11 aces and won 81% of points behind her first serve, dropping just one point behind it in the second set. It is too early to be saying that the serve is improved but this was a very encouraging start in that regard.
Vinci competed well in the first set, saving break points in back-to-back games as Sharapova showed some mental rustiness in failing to convert break points. However, the Russian player became more and more dominant as that set wore on and eventually made the crucial breakthrough at 5-5 with one of many bold return winners.
The second set was mostly comfortable for Sharapova aside from consolidating her early break of serve with a hard fought hold to 2-0. All in all, considering this was her first match in 15 months, a very good start from Sharapova who finished with excellent stats of 39 winners to 21 unforced errors.
Sharapova’s press conference is linked below which was a fascinating listen. I’m still howling at Maria’s reaction to a reporter from the Sun 😂😂😂
And Roberta’s press conference is also linked below… love her!
The WTA have a lot to answer for with the coverage of Sharapova-Vinci in the US. Their stream of the press conference was great but… what about the ACTUAL MATCH?
While Sharapova’s return was no doubt the talking point of the day, there was still plenty of exciting first and second round action in Stuttgart. In an all-Russian affair on court one, Elena Vesnina beat Daria Kasatkina, 7-6(2) 6-2.
I managed to catch some of the match during my lunch break and was disappointed to see Kasatkina play a very passive tiebreak and generally struggle with the depth on her groundstrokes. Vesnina was in and out in terms of accuracy but was ultimately rewarded in going for her shots with some sweet angles. As expected, there was a nice embrace at the net between the pair.
Dasha and Elena!
In other first round matches…
Carla Suárez Navarro defeated the qualifier, Tamara Korpatsch, 6-2 6-4. CSN saved 12 of 13 break points faced during the first match on Wednesday’s Centre Court schedule.
Johanna Konta needed three sets to get past a struggling-with-injury, Naomi Osaka, 7-6(5) 3-6 6-1.
Kristina Mladenovic recorded a first ever win over Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, 6-4 6-2. MLB had won their three previous encounters, which had all taken place on clay.
CoCo Vandeweghe recovered from a break down in both sets to win in two tiebreak sets against Jelena Ostapenko, 7-6(3) 7-6(3).
Two second round matches were on Wednesday’s schedule – the first player into the last eight of Stuttgart 2017 was Simona Halep. Rallying from a an early break down in the first set and winning 12 of the last 15 games, Halep beat Barbora Strycova, 6-2 6-3.
Late night matches in Stuttgart are the best. The final match of the day was a fun one with Anett Kontaveit scoring the biggest win of her career, a first top ten win, over Garbiñe Muguruza, 2-6 7-6(1) 6-1. Muguruza had looked in fine form through the first set, playing aggressively, but she fell away fast from the second set tiebreak onwards with Kontaveit producing some stirring tennis towards the end of the match.
The remaining six second round matches in Stuttgart will be played on Thursday including Sharapova taking on Ekaterina Makarova. I’d guess a tougher match, particularly backing up her first win in so long and with less than a day to process everything. However, Sharapova has owned the head-to-head, against Makarova having won all six previous matches and dropped just one set. Who you got?
The top two seeds, Angelique Kerber and Karolina Pliskova will play the night session against Kristina Mladenovic and CoCo Vandeweghe respectively. I could see all the seeds in danger tomorrow… it’s going to be a fascinating day!
Really enjoyed Christopher Clarey’s latest piece on Victoria Azarenka.
And finally, uncensored part two with Andrea Petkovic and Jelena Jankovic from Charleston.