The stars came out to play in Hong Kong in a terrific order of play for an International event. Agnieszka Radwanska and Venus Williams headlined the day session on Centre Court and came away with straight set wins. Radwanska didn’t face a break point in a 6-1 6-2 victory over Zhang Ling, while in a repeat first round match from Hong Kong last year, Venus dropped one less game to beat Risa Ozaki, 6-2 6-2.
Daria Gavrilova and Naomi Osaka both wobbled with leads, yet came through in straight set wins. Gavrilova was twice up a break in the second set against Miyu Kato, yet was forced to win it on a tiebreak having saved a set point. Gavrilova won, 6-1 7-6(4). Osaka lost her double break in the second set against the world number 415, Alexa Guarachi, but broke for the win, 7-5 6-4. And it was a big one as the Japanese player snapped a five match losing streak stretching back to the US Open.
The only seed to fall through the first round was the number five seed, Elena Vesnina. The Russian player was defeated by Luksika Kumkhum who won, 6-3 6-4. For Kumkhum, this was just the second top 30 win of her entire career.
In the night session, the number one seed, Elina Svitolina was pushed hard by a fine effort from Zarina Diyas, eventually winning, 6-4 7-6(2). Both players seemed to have some injury concerns – Svitolina had her thigh taped up and the trainer on midway through the first set, while Diyas’s knee was mummified, much like Peng Shuai. There’s a lot to like about Diyas’s game and she can hittt the ball – the forehand was particularly lethal in this match. I also admired her fight and she kept battling, twice breaking Svitolina when serving for the match in the second set.
In the end, it was another classic Svitolina match where she quickly recovered from the disappointment of failing to serve out the match and kept things steadier in the second set tiebreak. I’ve lost count of the number of times Svitolina has done this in 2017. A little concern for Svitolina whether she will go all the way with her leg. It was another impressive performance from Diyas who won her first WTA title at the Tokyo International last month. If she can stay injury free (and that could be a big if with that knee) then I can definitely see her matching her previous best ranking of 31 next year.
In the final first round match, the defending champion and number three seed, Caroline Wozniacki danced past Eugenie Bouchard, 6-1 6-1 in just 58 minutes. While it was clearly not a good match for Bouchard, I thought Wozniacki was superb. Bouchard looked lost at how to contend with Wozniacki who didn’t just sit back and wait for errors, but maintained her aggressive streak from the past few weeks. Again, i’m taken aback by how well Wozniacki is hitting her forehand and she was actually creating openings off that side.
Bouchard briefly rallied to avoid the second set bagel but couldn’t add to that one game as Wozniacki broke for the win with yet more stellar returning. I’d like to see a Svitolina-Wozniacki rematch in the semi-finals…
The first half of second round matches will be played on Wednesday in Hong Kong and it’s another cracker!
The first match of the day is a repeat of the longest women’s match from the US Open between Daria Gavrilova and Shelby Rogers. Rogers won that match, 7-6(6) 4-6 7-6(5). In the hot and humid conditions of Hong Kong, i’d actually favour Gavrilova’s defence to prevail in this particular encounter.
The second match of the day will see Venus Williams play Naomi Osaka – Boom! The pair played their first match at Wimbledon where Venus was mostly clutch on serve to win, 7-6(3) 6-4. I think it is tough these days for Williams to win on back-to-back days, yet i’m not quite sure if Osaka’s mentality is there right now to swoop for the win following a rough spell of form since the US Open.
The final match on Centre Court will see Agnieszka Radwanska play Sam Stosur. The pair have played four times with three of those matches going the distance and Stosur leading the head-to-head, 3-1. I still think Stosur’s building up match play and consistency since spending nearly four months on the sidelines for a hand injury. Therefore, i’d go for Radwanska.
Over in Tianjin, it was completely rained off for a second straight day. The same schedule applies for Wednesday where it is set to be dry!
In Linz, Mihaela Buzarnescu scored the first WTA main draw win of her career over the number four seed, Anett Kontaveit, 7-6(8) 6-3. Delving behind the rankings, the result was not quite as surprising. Kontaveit has clearly lost confidence and momentum over the past few months, now riding a four match losing streak, while Buzarnescu is knocking on the door of the world’s top 100 after winning five ITF titles including the $80k tournament in Biarritz last month. The Romanian player also successfully qualified for the US Open.
In other results, Magdalena Rybarikova, Ajla Tomljanovic, Tatjana Maria and Varvara Lepchenko all advanced to the second round. Lepchenko knocked out the number three seed, Kiki Bertens, 6-3 7-6(4) – this was Lepchenko’s fourth win in five meetings.
The first round of Linz will conclude on Wednesday, as well as the first second round matches in the night session including Belinda Bencic vs. Lara Arruabarrena at not before 18:30pm local time.
Carla Suárez Navarro has ended her season due to a wrist injury.
Great news for Sydney – Venus Williams is the first name confirmed for the Sydney International in the second week of 2018. Tickets go on sale later this week.
Tuesday was media day for the 2018 Australian Open where it was implied that Serena is aiming to return for the first Slam of 2018.
All tickets are now on sale for the 2018 Australian Open.
I’ve bought my tickets for the Australian Open – I am so excited! My bro and I will be there for the first four days and have bought a range of tickets including two day and night sessions on Rod Laver Arena, one day session on MCA and one ground pass.