The new tennis season is well underway with action in Brisbane, Auckland, Shenzhen and the Hopman Cup. I always feel rather overwhelmed in the first few days of a new season because there is always so much going on and across multiple tournaments. I’m on a tennis high right now so riding this wave for now!
I’m hoping to debut a new Set Points post soon so stay tuned for that. I’ve got a lot of scattered thoughts today so have gone for the classic Set Points to start 2019. I’ve been recovering with the tennis after New Years and wanted to write a short post before I go off and catch up some more! Read on for seven stories from Monday and Tuesday’s action.
Bertens d. Mertens in Brisbane
The quality of the line-up in Brisbane is so strong that it yielded a top 12 clash on the first day of main draw action on Monday. The world number 9, Kiki Bertens took on the world number 12, Elise Mertens with the former prevailing, 6-2 6-7(6) 6-4 in two hours and 29 minutes. I watched the third set which was decent. I felt like Mertens’s grittiness was going to prevail as Bertens seemed to be getting frustrated and losing her way. Mertens threw in a shocker of a game to get broken at 4-4 in the decider.
Bertens continues to impress me with her ability to reset from minor setbacks and stay on it with her aggressive mentality. The improvement she has shown in the last year has been spectacular. I think I still need to come to terms with the fact that Bertens is a top 10 player and totally legit. This win felt like a continuation from Singapore. A tricky second round match awaits against Donna Vekic which I think could go either way.
A rare 👍 to the WTA who have a shed load of highlights up on their YouTube page.
Sharapova’s first win in four months
After Bertens-Mertens, I moved continents to Shenzhen, China where Maria Sharapova was taking on Timea Bacsinszky. I was of course rooting for Timea! It was a scrappy match but gripping at the end of the second set. Sharapova won, 6-2 7-6(3), battling back from 3-5 down in the second set.
For her first match in so long, I thought Sharapova did well to wrap it up in straights. It was very up and down but expected considering how long it has been since she played a competitive match. Bacsinszky’s forehand continues to look vulnerable. The Swiss player kept scrapping away and i’ve just got everything crossed that she can stay healthy and build some momentum.
It looked very cold in Shenzhen. Normally we are used to seeing fans on courts but I think they had heaters!
Sabalenka’s 1st win of 2019
Aryna Sabalenka recovered from a shaky start to beat Tatjana Maria in Shenzhen, reeling off 10 straight games in the middle of the match before prevailing, 3-6 6-3 6-1. Maria is a tricky player with her mix of spins, slices and net ventures and Sabalenka looked panicky at the start. Sabalenka hit one overhead into the back fence in the first set! 😲
The Belarusian calmed down in the second set and came from a double break down to comfortably win the final two sets. It was nice to see Sabalenka moving forward in the court. Like Bertens, she showed her quality in being able to ride some rocky moments to ultimately get the win. Sabalenka scored 22 three set wins in 2018 and she’s already on 1 for the 2019 season!
Konta’s best win in 18 months
Johanna Konta recorded her first top 10 win since Wimbledon 2017 with a 6-4 6-3 victory over the number three seed, Sloane Stephens in Brisbane. Konta had lost her last ten matches against top ten opposition so it was a damn good start to the new season! I feel like last year Konta had some tough draws and often just came up short having shown some promise. I was impressed with her commitment in this opener and how well her forehand held up after a few errors early on. Most impressive to me was how she served how the match.
It wasn’t the best of the days for Stephens who was very negative in her body language throughout the match. I thought she played an OK match and there’s no real reason for concern just one match in. In a repeat second round match from Brisbane last year, Konta plays Ajla Tomljanovic in the second round.
Hopman Cup 💖
Can I just say that I adore the Hopman Cup. I really enjoyed watching Angelique Kerber vs. Garbine Muguruza at the weekend which continues to deliver as a blockbuster match-up. On Tuesday, the heavily anticipated Switzerland vs. USA tie delivered another record attendance as Roger Federer and Serena Williams both took to the court. The mixed doubles was such an occasion and the post-match interviews were fantastic (see linked below). I thought the actual quality of the mixed doubles was poor (question for ATP fans – was Frances going easy or not played much doubles before because I thought he was alarmingly pedestrian?!) but I was glued to the screen.
I’m so sad this is set to be the last year with the plans in place for the sucky ATP cup team event next year. I think the Hopman Cup is such a special event and delivers so many memorable moments. At the very least, I hope that Perth gets some live tennis. I fell in love with the place visiting last year.
Hopman Cup funny moments
Thanks to Laura for capturing a genius moment below where Angie shows her disdain at Sascha being late for the mixed doubles 😂 .
Draw Challenge Picks
I thought you’d all like to know that one of my predicted champs for the week is already out 🤣. I went for Victoria Azarenka to win Auckland but she fell in three sets to Venus Williams. I did catch the last few games of that match – a lot of errors from Vika into the net at the very end but Venus looked very sharp? In Brisbane, I ended up with a Svitolina-Sevastova final which is still alive. I had Konta beating Stephens, but also a Kasatkina-Suarez Navarro QF that’s already turned to mulch.