Monday was the first day of the 2018 Rogers Cup in Montreal with the likes of Venus Williams and Karolina Pliskova in action. The day session was hot and toasty, while the night session was cut short due to rain. Monday’s Set Points post rounds up some of the highlights of the day, as well as a look back at the finals in San Jose and Washington. Read on for 10 stories from Montreal.
Kontaveit battles back to beat Makarova
Anett Kontaveit won 10 of the last 12 games to record her first win since Wimbledon with a 4-6 6-3 6-1 victory over Ekaterina Makarova. I got back for the second set where Kontaveit increasingly began to dictate the rallies with some beautiful ballstriking. Makarova held her first seven service games. Finally, Kontaveit began to make some headway on return and finished with four breaks in Makarova’s last six service games.
A Safarova fightback!
Lucie Safarova saved a match point and won the last five games of a tortuous opener against Daria Gavrilova, 4-6 6-4 7-5. One of the reasons why i’ve always admired Lucie is for her fighting spirit and this was yet another classic example of where she kept plugging away. This was Lucie’s third match in as many days and it was a very hot day in Montreal. I think she is vulnerable now in these kind of situations having endured so many illnesses over the last few years. Lucie looked strong and handled Gavrilova’s variety, especially the loopy shots to her backhand, better as the match wore on.
As much as i’m happy to see Lucie enjoy success, I really feel for Dasha. The Aussie had leads in the second and third sets, and completely lost her way from *5-2 in the third set. Dasha hit 17 double faults with quite a few coming in her last three service games. She hit progressively shorter and shorter, allowing Lucie to step in and go after her shots at the end. I would be interested to know if Dasha is working with a mental coach because it would seem imperative that she needs one at this stage of her career. The serve is so vulnerable in the key moments and she seems to be really struggling to control her nerves.
Lucie moves onto the second round where she will play the number ten seed, Julia Goerges. A little surprised to see this on the schedule on Tuesday. A tough turnaround for Lucie!
Pliskova beats Siniakova in straights
In an all Czech match-up, Karolina Pliskova beat Katerina Siniakova in straight sets, 6-4 6-4. I only had this one on in the background while I watched Safarova-Gavrilova. It looked like Siniakova was the better player in the first set. Pliskova though pounced with Siniakova serving to stay in it at *4-5. It was a classic Pliskova showing as she ultimately raised her game when it mattered.
Interesting to note that Siniakova seems to be working with Iain Hughes who is a former coach of Elina Svitolina and Belinda Bencic. I think this could be an interesting partnership. He was trying so hard to get Siniakova to forget and focus after that first set.
Venus’s first straight sets win since Miami
Experience prevailed over youth as Venus Williams settled down after a lacklustre start to beat Caroline Dolehide, 7-5 6-1. A straight sets win is a rarity for Williams these days as her last six wins have all come in three sets! Williams looked laboured on serve and was struggling again with the forehand as Dolehide jumped out into a 3-1 first set lead.
Williams though improved, becoming more aggressive on return and getting good depth on her groundstrokes. Dolehide played a good game to stay in contention in the first set at *4-5 but not so much at *5-6 with a string of errors. As i’ve written before, I really like Dolehide’s game. There’s a lot of variety but also a lot that can go pear-shaped! I think it will take some time for everything to gel. I seek out Caroline on a schedule as she’s fun to watch. Her game is very reminiscent of Sam Stosur.
Considering the start, a sound win for Venus. She’s one of the best at getting wins when NOT at her best. Yet another smart performance against an up-and-comer and onto the second round where she will definitely play a Romanian – either Monica Niculescu or Sorana Cirstea.
Rybarikova beats Strycova
Magdalena Rybarikova rallied from a set down to beat Barbora Strycova, 3-6 7-6(6) 6-2. Strycova served for the match at 6-3 *5-4 after toughing out a break at 4-4 where Rybarikova double faulted three times on the Ad side and down break point. Strycova though couldn’t take advantage and Rybarikova went onto edge an entertaining second set tiebreak. Rybarikova played a really secure third set with much improved serving (just four points dropped on serve) as Strycova notably faded. Rybarikova advances to the second round where she will play Caroline Garcia in Tuesday’s late night match.
While I was sleeping…
Not much happened! The rain arrived with two matches in play…
Maria Sharapova leads Sesil Karatantcheva, 4-1
Tatjana Maria leads Alizé Cornet, 6-4 1-2
San Jose champion – Mihaela Buzarnescu
Sunday’s finals for San Jose and Washington were both scheduled at the same time. Sigh. They both started at 10pm UK time. Double sigh. I watched the first four games of the San Jose final but soon moved over to Washington as Mihaela Buzarnescu was cruising it. Buzarnescu beat Maria Sakkari, 6-1 6-0 in 73 minutes to win her first WTA title! I’m astounded that Buzarnescu has managed to keep this high level up over many months now and long may it continue. The Buz is so much fun to watch! A great week for Sakkari and hopefully she can learn from this experience.
Washington champion – Svetlana Kuznetsova
Svetlana Kuznetsova saved four Championship points to beat Donna Vekic and win the title in Washington, 4-6 7-6(7) 6-2. I really enjoyed the first set and was tempted to keep watching but decided it was not worth the pain on Monday morning 😭😂. There was a little bit of tension between the two at the end of the first set as Vekic seemed frustrated at Kuznetsova delaying play due to her annoyances at the crowd. The match had a real edge to it and when I went to bed, I thought there was still a lot of tennis to be played.
Great week for Sveta. Not that I doubted but she’s still got plenty to offer on the WTA tour. Vekic has been steadily improving over the last year and I think her coaching partnership with Torben Beltz is on the money. She still has the tendency to be quite negative on court – for example, she listed to Beltz all the things she wasn’t happy with when she was 5-2 UP in the first set! I like her progression though and she’s a player that i’ll be watching out for in the coming months.
San Jose and Washington speeches
Both trophy speeches were great. I’ve linked D.C. below. Vekic was clearly upset and emotional about her loss, but she spoke so wonderfully. Kuznetsova was very giving in her words too for Vekic.
A duo of polls for Tuesday’s matches in Montreal. Who you got?