It”s been a great start to the 2019 season with the first champion of the year crowned in Shenzhen. The Hopman Cup also finished (perhaps forever?) with a a dramatic conclusion in the mixed doubles match. Sunday will see the two finals in Brisbane and Auckland, as well as the qualifying matches in Sydney. Still keeping up?! Read on for 7 stories in Saturday’s Set Points post.
Switzerland d. Germany to win Hopman Cup for the 2nd time in a row
The Hopman Cup came to a dramatic conclusion on Saturday night in Perth as Switzerland beat Germany in the decisive mixed doubles match, 4-0 1-4 4-3 (5-4). The FAST4 format resulted in the match coming down to the final point – at 4-4 in the third set, both teams had Championship point! The final set of the mixed doubles was fantastic. My favourite rally is linked below where Angie went toe-to-toe with Rog before going around-the-net-post with a winner. Angie had another sensational Hopman Cup. Surely one of the faves for the AO?
I’m so-so with the FAST4 format, but definitely not as critical as most on social media. It hardly seems fair that Switzerland got three serves in a row at the end of the match? However, that end was exhilirating! I generally seem to disagree with the majority on length of the matches in tennis as I favour quality over quantity.
If this was the final Hopman Cup, they certainly went out with a bang. The future seems unclear for now with the ATP cup set for 2020. There were no mentions of next year from the organisers in the trophy ceremony. I do hope the format is somehow replicated somewhere else in the tennis calendar because it is unique and has produced some wonderful moments over the years. The tournament has been such a huge success in Perth and has consistently drawn in the crowds. It’s clearly popular with the players so I wonder if having their support could help, especially Federer. Still buzzing after today’s final!
Sabalenka wins Shenzhen
Aryna Sabalenka rallied from a set down to beat Alison Riske in Saturday’s Shenzhen final. For the first WTA final of 2019, Riske and Sabalenka set the bar high. This was a fantastic final. Riske played a great opener, serving well and dominating with down-the-line strikes. Sabalenka struggled to convert on her second set lead as a gutsy Riske saved some set points to force a second set tiebreak. The American, who has twice finished as finalist in Shenzhen before, fought valiantly but Sabalenka was ultimately too strong and served superbly in the decider.
A great start to the year for Sabalenka who has put down a solid marker as an outsider for the Australian Open. The Belarusian will fly onto Sydney where she plays Petra Kvitova (!!!) in the first round on Monday/Tuesday.
What a rally in Shenzhen!
The best point of Saturday’s Shenzhen final is linked below – well worth a watch back!
I loved Sabalenka’s speech as she shouted over to Riske to teach her how she hits her backhand down-the-line!
Brisbane final – Pliskova vs. Tsurenko
Sunday’s Brisbane final will be contested between Karolina Pliskova and Lesia Tsurenko after both players won their semi-finals in straight sets. Pliskova beat Donna Vekic, 6-4 6-3. Vekic had said in yesterday’s press conference that she had practised with Pliskova at the start of the week and the Czech player had destroyed her! Tsurenko beat Naomi Osaka, 6-2 6-4 in a surprising result. Tsurenko has yet to drop a set all week.
As well as playing the final, Pliskova and Tsurenko are also drawn to meet in the first round of Sydney. I’ve not seen either play a full match yet this week but i’d go for Pliskova who has become so reliable. I still have question marks about whether she can string together seven wins at a Slam and bring her best level against the top ten.
Auckland final – Goerges vs. Andreescu
The big story in Auckland has been the run of 18-year-old, Bianca Andreescu. The young Canadian has beaten the trio of Caroline Wozniacki, Venus Williams and Hsieh Su-Wei to reach her first WTA final. I’m super impressed she managed to back up those big wins over Caroline and Venus by beating Hsieh who is one of the trickiest players on tour. I often find players like Hsieh and Niculescu can be the trickiest for the up-and-comers as they play so differently. I watched most of Andreescu’s come-from-behind win over V.Williams in the quarter-finals where she won, 6-7(1) 6-1 6-3. I was surprised by how Andreescu managed to reset after losing the first set and then eventually overpower Williams. Another one to watch!!!
Goerges has had another great run in Auckland. I really enjoyed her quarter-final win over Eugenie Bouchard which has been one of the better matches of the week. Both Goerges and Bouchard played well in the windy conditions with Goerges ultimately rewarded for being bolder on the big points and an absolute demon at the net in the deciding set tiebreak. This point was one of my favourite so far this week. Goerges beat Viktoria Kuzmova today in the semi-finals. Both have very similar games centered on the serve and huge groundstrokes. Goerges’s boldness again shone through with some killer forehands in the second set tiebreak.
Anything seems possible with Andreescu this week as she must be floating on air with confidence, excitement and momentum. I’d still back Goerges based on experience and boldness in the big moments.
Safarova’s retirement delayed
Lucie Safarova announced on Friday that she has pulled out of the Australian Open due to a wrist injury. The Czech player has confirmed that she still wants to finish her career on the court. I’m wondering where it will be – Doha? Indian Wells? French Open? Really hope we get to see Lucie on a tennis court one last time.