Monday’s Set Points, Wimbledon 2018 Day 1: Vekic’s best win, beats Stephens in straights

Ready. Steady. Go! The 2018 Wimbledon Championships are officially underway with another sweltering day packed with wall-to-wall sunshine. The bottom half of the women’s draw began on Monday with plenty of first round shocks. There will be two Set Points posts today. Part one focuses on the third quarter of the draw where Karolina Pliskova, Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens and Julia Goerges were the top seeds. Read on for seven stories covering the matches that I watched on Monday from this section of this draw.

Vekic d. Stephens (Wimbledon, R1)

The first match of the day on No.1 Court produced the biggest upset of the tournament on Day 1 as Donna Vekic knocked out the number four seed and French Open finalist, Sloane Stephens, 6-1 6-3. Stephens showed the rust of a player that had not played a competitive match on grass so far this year. Stephens’s timing and tactics both looked off and she was erratic on the backhand side.

Vekic played a good, solid match. She faced some yips on the serve as she hit nine double faults. Vekic kept things very steady in the rallies, didn’t go for too much, and was the much more convincing player of the pair. This was Vekic’s best win on tour and her first victory over a top five player. It’s nice to see it come on the grass , particularly after last year’s narrow loss to Johanna Konta.

Buzarnescu d. Sabalenka (Wimbledon, R1)

My overriding feeling from watching the first set of this much anticipated clash between Mihaela Buzarnescu and Aryna Sabalenka was sadness that we would lose one of these in-form players in the first round! It was Buzarnescu who prevailed, 6-7(3) 6-1 6-4 in one hour and 56 minutes.

The first set featured some quality tennis with both players serving well and comfortable coming forward to gobble up anything short. Buzarnescu made a few more unforced errors in the first set tiebreak. The Romanian player showed great resilience to win in three sets, resisting a late surge from an ultimately fading, Sabalenka.

Buzarnescu has now won her last seven three set matches and the last four of those have all come from a set down!

Ka. Pliskova d. Dart (Wimbledon, R1)

All the credit to the 21-year-old British wild card, Harriet Dart who had the number seven seed, Karolina Pliskova on the ropes for a time. Pliskova was mostly unconvincing in the first set, riding her break of serve to *5-4 where she lost it with a poor service game including two double faults. Dart kept the score close and was playing well, looking impressive off the backhand side. Pliskova showed her champion qualities to take the first set on the tiebreak.

Dart stuck around in the second set and raced into a double break lead. A nasty slip, one of many seen at Wimbledon on the first day, threatened to throw Dart’s momentum, but she stayed focused and won the second set. The Brit chalked up three break points in Pliskova’s opening service game of the third set. The Czech player managed to stave them off and never really looked back from there, breaking Dart’s spirit to win in three sets, 7-6(2) 2-6 6-1.

I’ll be watching out for Dart in the future. I thought she acquitted herself marvellously well in this match against a top 10 stalwart. For Pliskova, I was not at all convinced by this performance. She looked so uncomfortable in her movement on the grass. As we’ve seen many times before, she can fight her way through matches when not at her best, and this is definitely one of her greatest attributes.

V.Williams d. Larsson (Wimbledon, R1)

Venus Williams rallied from a set down to win her first Slam match of the year, beating Johanna Larsson, 6-7(3) 6-2 6-1. The American looked extremely shaky in the first set, suffering a couple of nasty slips on the grass (recurring story of the day). Larsson, who was 0-7 in main draw singles matches at Wimbledon. won the first set on the tiebreak. Never write off Venus though… becoming increasingly successful behind the serve, the 2017 Wimbledon finalist won 10 of the last 11 games to reach the second round.

A few funny moments in Venus’s press conference. The American player continues to give very little away in press!

Strycova d. Kuznetsova (Wimbledon, R1)

Barbora Strycova scored an impressive straight sets win over Svetlana Kuznetsova in what was a thoroughly entertaining first round match, 7-6(6) 7-5. Strycova saved a set point in the opener with a sensational drop shot winner that got the racquet clap from Sveta, and then came from a double break down in the second set.

I really enjoyed the first set and it was very close between the pair. Ultimately, it felt like Strycova was a touch more clutch with Kuznetsova missing on some important points. I feel quite stable with my prediction of Strycova to reach the quarter-finals in what is a reasonably open section of the draw. One match at a time!

Azarenka d. Alexandrova (Wimbledon, R1)

Victoria Azarenka overcame a couple of nasty slips on the grass to advance to a second round date with Karolina Pliskova. Azarenka won, 7-6(3) 6-3 over Ekaterina Alexandrova for her first Slam win since last year’s Wimbledon. Azarenka needed the trainer after a nasty slip in the third game. The Belarusian had her knee heavily taped but was able to continue and come through for the win.

Peterson d. Kuzmova (Wimbledon, R1)

Rebecca Peterson won her first main draw match at Wimbledon, saving four set points in the second set to defeat Viktoria Kuzmova in two tiebreak sets, 7-6(3) 7-6(9). I’d tagged Kuzmova as one to watch and had her to the fourth round in my draw. Sadly, it was not to be! I really enjoyed the second set tiebreak. Ultimately, it was Peterson’s superior serving, including two big first serves on the set points that saw her win this match. Kuzmova double faulted on the second match point. I haven’t seen much of Peterson but she has a tidy game.

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