Australian Open 2018 Day 3: Report and Photos

This is the third report from my week at the Australian Open. For a recap and photos from day 2 where we watched matches including Safarova-Tomljanovic, Vesnina-Jabeur and Barty-Sabalenka, click HERE. For the Wednesday we had tickets for the day and night session on Rod Laver Arena. Let’s get stuck into day 3…

Wednesday is when we started to flag a tad! We were at the tennis all day on Tuesday and had another full day planned so didn’t get up to any sightseeing in the morning. There was still a crisp freshness in the air, something we hadn’t witnessed at any other destination in Australia, but it was noticeably warmer than the previous days with temperatures forecasted to reach 30C. We went in through the Garden Square entrance, the same as day 1. We didn’t arrive until about 10:30am where there were barely any queues and we were through security within five minutes. We headed to the east side of the grounds and found Maria Sharapova practising on Court 17 and Rafael Nadal on Court 16. There’s an elevated walkway called the Emirates Skydeck which has good views over both these courts. I managed to get to the front around Sharapova’s court.

Then it was over to Rod Laver Arena where Elina Svitolina and Katerina Siniakova were up first. I’d been eager to see Svitolina for years having only ever seen her live once in mixed doubles action at Wimbledon in 2015. It was wonderful to get some photos of Elina and she’s definitely one of my favourite to photograph. Siniakova too is a delight to watch and photograph. It was the Czech player who was rewarded in the first set for being more positive and willing to go down-the-line, even if it wasn’t always successful! Siniakova won the opener, 6-4.

Svitolina was serving great with three aces alone in her first service game (the serve seems much improved compared to 2017) but otherwise she seemed a little off and was mostly passive, perched way behind the baseline. Svitolina did reference an injury in her press conference after the match. I felt the speed of the court was favouring Siniakova. The momentum did switch in the second set as Siniakova offered up some wild unforced errors. The Czech player took a medical time-out off court down 1-5 with Svitolina just solidly going about her business.

The first set had been decent but the second set was rather flat and my brother and I were losing interest so decided to head off to Hisense Arena. It proved to be a good decision as Svitolina eased to victory in three sets, 4-6 6-2 6-1 in two hours and 14 minutes. Belinda Bencic, one of my favourite players, was up against Luksika Kumkhum. It was such a faff to get onto the Hisense Arena (i’ll go into detail about the ticketing on Hisense in my final round-up post) and it took us two changeovers to find seats in the upper tier.

By the time we had sat down, Kumkhum dished out a 6-1 breadstick opening set. All the credit to Kumkhum who played a great match, hitting gorgeous angles and constantly wrong-footing Bencic. The Swiss player managed to get the early break in the second set but her serve was just way off. Kumkhum broke twice a row, the second time in an eight deuce game.

Bencic, who had upset Venus Williams in the first round, just had a bad day and couldn’t get her game going. Bencic saved three match points but Kumkhum won on the fourth, posting a 6-1 6-3 victory to advance to the third round of a Slam for the first time in her career. Kumkhum was very sweet at the end and the crowd really embraced her. I was really shocked by the scoreline as i’d had high hopes for BB.

We headed to the outside courts feeling a little dejected where we caught a bit of Anett Kontaveit’s practice on Court 18. Kontaveit can hittttt the ball and is awesome to watch up close! Having told my brother that the second match on Rod Laver Arena between Caroline Wozniacki and Jana Fett would be a quick one, I suddenly noticed Fett had won the first set! We headed straight back and caught the end of the second set.

Wozniacki was noticeably passive but Fett was launching shots way past the baseline. One set all. The second set featured yet another disagreement between Wozniacki and a umpire. It seems to be a common occurrence in matches and I get the sense the umpires are fed up with her arguing everything. I’m beginning to find it rather irritating!

Wozniacki was forced to save break points at the start of the decider which she did so with some of her most forceful and proactive tennis of the match. Fett meanwhile was rolling through her service games and then reeled four games in a row with some truly inspired play. There was one pulsating rally which Fett finished with a brilliant volley (see below). She raised her arms in the air and reacted in a way that said “wow I can’t believe I just did that”! Wozniacki was giving away treats on serve with five double faults in the decider alone and most at crucial stages. Wozniacki was sinking without trace…

Fett served for the match at *5-1 and had two match points at *40-15 for the biggest win of her career and what would have been a huge upset in the bottom half of the draw. Fett was unable to convert on her two match points and Wozniacki began to show some fight at deuce and managed to break back. All of a sudden, the comeback was on. The Dane was hitting cleaner and much more reliable on serve. At the same time, Fett’s game began to unravel.

There was one point that I remember clearly – a long, extended rally where it was Wozniacki who pulled the trigger with a potent backhand down-the-line winner. It was a rare moment to see Wozniacki be the aggressor and it was THE moment where I felt Woz had turned this around. She went onto complete a sensational comeback, winning the last six games of the match, 3-6 6-2 7-5 in two hours and 31 minutes.

I remember thinking at the time that this win was absolutely huge for Wozniacki. Saving match points almost seems to relax a player for the tournament ahead. Wow how things turned out with Woz winning her first Slam! It was yet another great women’s match with so much drama. Credit to Fett who played some superb tennis. She got tight serving it out and just couldn’t recover as Wozniacki seized her opportunity to come back in clinical fashion. I was impressed to see Fett signing autographs at the end after such a brutal match. Wozniacki thanked the crowd in her post-match interview HERE.

At the end of Wozniacki-Fett, I went out to see how Daria Kasatkina was getting on against Magda Linette on Show Court 2. From the scoreboard, it had appeared a topsy-turvy first set of twists and turns. Kasatkina looked to have the edge in the first set tiebreak. However, in a sea of befuddling unforced errors, Linette came back to take a 69-minute opening set. It was pretty hot at this time but I wanted to see if Dasha could turn it around. Bad decision. I can’t remember watching Dasha play such a poor match.

Credit to Linette who was hitting plenty of winners and had the majority of support from what was a depleted crowd. Linette went up a double break in the second set. Kasatkina managed to get one of those breaks back in anger, snapping with a thunderous return winner. Unfortunately Kasatkina couldn’t build on the brief moment of optimism. The Russian player was so, so frustrated, bouncing her racquet on multiple occasions and lamenting at her team. Linette won, 7-6(4) 6-2. It was not a fun watch and I went off feeling flat again, just like after Bencic-Kumkhum!

I needed a boost so I headed out to see some doubles. After watching Sabalenka for the first time on Tuesday night from the upper tier of Rod Laver Arena, I wanted the courtside experience and some better photos! Sabalenka was playing doubles with Veronika Kudermetova, up against Sorana Cirstea and Beatriz Haddad Maia. I only feared for my life once when Sabalenka came hurtling towards the sideline where I was standing! Court 10 was basked in hot sunshine so there wasn’t much of a crowd.

Cirstea and Haddad Maia were a pretty tight-knit team and the latter was fist pumping after every point they won. Sabalenka managed a complete air shot during one rally, prompting a smile. The Brazilian-Romanian pair were in control, winning rather comfortably, 6-2 6-2.

I went back into Rod Laver Arena and joined my brother for some Rafa who was up against Leonardo Mayer in the final match of the day session. It was quite fun with some entertaining points but we came out before the expected rush at the end to get some food. After two long women’s matches on Rod Laver Arena and Nadal not having it all his own way, it was looking like it would be a late one.

After eating we saw a bit of doubles with Mirjana Lucic-Baroni and Andrea Petkovic playing Monica Niculescu and Irina-Camelia Begu out on Court 12. We happened to be watching when Niculescu hit a volley, and as she did, let go of her racquet which went flying behind her. Petkovic and Lucic-Baroni were both laughing and the umpire, Gianluca Moscarella, said out aloud to the pair he’d never seen anything like it!

The grounds were much quieter on Wednesday (I guess the heat?) and we finally managed to make it onto Court 8 for the first time where Anett Kontaveit was taking on Mona Barthel. This was one of my favourite moments of our Australian Open experience. It was impossible to find a good view (we moved three times 😂) but it was a really nice atmosphere with the sun setting and two of my favourite players on tour. I was just chilled out and enjoying the tennis!

There was a funny moment in the third set where one of the players challenged and it took ages for Hawkeye to come up on the screen. When it did come up, the ball was clearly out but the caption said “in”. The caption then suddenly changed to “out”! Anett and Mona were both laughing 😂.

Kontaveit’s pounding groundstrokes and brutal intensity saw her race into a 5-1 lead in the third set. However, as I mentioned in my day 1 post, I am always wary of Kontaveit closing out matches. Serving for the match at *5-1, Kontaveit wavered with two double faults in the game. Second time around was much better with Kontaveit prevailing, 6-3 4-6 6-3 in one hour and 36 minutes.

There was a nice handshake between the pair and Kontaveit looked thrilled at the end as she signed some autographs. I like watching both Barthel and Kontaveit, the latter who has a real energy about her. Kontaveit can hitttt the ball but it’s mostly at one level. I’d like to see her throw in some variety, some light and shade, and improve her game coming forward. The closing out matches issue is a concern, as proved in her fourth round loss to Carla Suárez Navarro from a set and a break up.

We hadn’t planned to stay for the entire Kontaveit-Barthel match but I was glad we did as we waited for the night session to start on Rod Laver Arena. We headed over there just as the players were knocking up. First up for our second and final night session was Grigor Dimitrov against the American, Mackenzie McDonald. We were already an hour late with the start and lo and behold, it went the distance!

I’m not a fan of best of five set men’s matches and often don’t have the time or patience. After Dimitrov lost his serve early on in the fourth, you could tell his mind was already on the fifth as he was very quickly bagelled 😴.

The fifth set was fantastic, it just took so long to get there! I thought McDonald was great and played his heart out. From 3-3 in the fifth set, the American jestered to the crowd who suddenly came alive with excitement. It was like the flick of a switch and from there on, the crowd was totally engaged. Credit to Dimitrov for digging out the win, 4-6 6-2 6-4 0-6 8-6 in three hours and 25 minutes.

The late start and long men’s match meant that the women’s match, one i’d been looking forward to all day between Daria Gavrilova and Elise Mertens, didn’t start till around midnight. It was such a shame and we were flagging having been at the tennis for over 12 hours. We stayed for the start and moved forward about five rows as the crowd emptied out. After a long deuce game at 1-0, not a changeover, the crowd thinned out dramatically!

Gavrilova made a sensational start to the match going up 5-0 first set – she was energetic, intense and most impressively, super aggressive. Gavrilova kept hitting these loopy forehands that, from our angle looked liked they were going out, but every time landed plum on the line. Mertens wasn’t having a shocker by any means, but just came out of the blocks slow. This was understandable considering it was already Thursday. Gavrilova was just so, so good at the start.

We felt bad for leaving but by 00:45am, we were absolutely shattered. Mertens was just starting to come back when we left at 5-2 in the first set. By the time we got back to the hotel, Mertens had won the set, 7-5. We couldn’t believe it! Mertens went onto won, 7-5 6-4, en route to a first Slam semi-final.

This was probably the longest tennis day of my life – loved it but 😴😴😴.

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