The second week of the season is a much quieter affair with just the two WTA tournaments in Sydney and Hobart. I’ll be focusing on Sydney this week which, despite a late flurry of withdrawals, has still attracted a superb line-up with six of the world’s top 10. After a lovely long break over Christmas, I went back to work on Monday. It’s a busy week so i’ll be intermittently blogging up to the Australian Open. Read on for six stories to cover Monday and Tuesday’s action in Sydney.
Bacsinszky’s first win of 2019
Timea Bacsinszky reached the second round of Sydney on Monday after beating the world number 11, Anastasija Sevastova, 6-7(3) 6-4 6-4 in two hours and 49 minutes. Bacsinszky was the more aggressive player and threw in some beautiful nuggets of variety. It was a surprisingly passive and error-strewn display from Sevastova who I thought was a clear favourite for this match. The Latvian player seemed to have a bit of an off day and was unable to reach the heights of her displays in Brisbane.
I’m delighted for Timea as this was a huge win and a marked improvement on her performance last week in Shenzhen against Maria Sharapova. It was the second time since her comeback from injury that she’s beaten the #11 in the world having defeated Aryna Sabalenka towards the end of 2018 in Tianjin. Currently ranked at 192 in the rankings, every win is precious. Up next for Bacsinszky in the second round is Sam Stosur. A huge opportunity for both players and I like Timea’s chances of reaching the quarter-finals.
Muguruza prevails in battle of the Spaniards, withdraws from R2
Garbiñe Muguruza looked decent in a 6-3 6-4 first round win over Carla Suárez Navarro. Muguruza served well and was aggressive against a mostly subdued, Suárez Navarro who has yet to win a set so far in 2019. I was expecting Muguruza to withdraw or retire pre-tournament as she seemed to be dealing with a leg injury in Perth. The Spaniard has now pulled out of the tournament citing illness giving Kiki Bertens a walkover to the quarter-finals.
Despite the niggles and illness, I think that Muguruza is one to watch for the Australian Open. She only won one of her three matches at the Hopman Cup but she came up against tough opposition. I thought she looked in decent form in both Perth and Sydney. I like players showing form prior to a Slam who haven’t yet peaked and Muguruza is in that category.
Blockbuster match alert, Kvitova beats Sabalenka
In the flashiest of the first rounders on paper in Sydney, Petra Kvitova saved a set point to record a straight sets win over a poor-serving, Aryna Sabalenka, 6-1 7-5. I underestimated the impact of moving between Shenzhen to Sydney for Sabalenka as I thought she’d win this match.
Sabalenka never really found her range, or looked comfortable, despite being one point away from forcing a deciding set. On Sabalenka’s lone set point, she hit a brilliant return that was initially called out. This was overruled by the umpire. Kvitova got the return back in play but Sabalenka had the upper hand so she was a tad unlucky. Sabalenka also had three game points at *5-5 in the second set, the second of those with an open court where she pushed a volley wide.
This match had P3tra written all over it. The Czech player had a few wobbly moments in the second set but did very well to win in straights. I think i’d put Kvitova in my “ones to watch” category with Muguruza. I’d like to see Petra get another match or two in Sydney before the Australian Open.
Stephens’s first win of 2019
In an early claim for funkiest WTA scoreline of 2019, Sloane Stephens rallied from all manner of deficits to beat Ekaterina Alexandrova, 0-6 7-6(3) 7-6 (3). Alexandrova was two points away from the win in both the second and third sets. Leading 6-0 *5-4 *30-30, Alexandrova suffered a nasty fall. It was a shame as it clearly knocked her rhythm.
This wasn’t a pretty match from Stephens but I admired her commitment and determination to turn the match around. Alexandrova offered up a string of unforced errors in the third set tiebreak. Stephens earnt the win though by getting to the deciding set tiebreak as she came through some brutal games in the middle of the third set. Sometimes you just have to get to get through these types of matches with the W. I still feel that is noteworthy for Stephens because she has had her fair share of shockers in the past. Next up is Yulia Putintseva… feeling some drama there?!
Simona Halep interview
There’s a great interview with Simona in the Guardian by Donald McRae. Many thanks to Graham for sharing it in the comments section of a previous post. I know there are many Simona fans out there so thought it was worth sharing again for anyone who didn’t see it.
AO 2019 on the horizon…
The Australian Open is less than a week away! For anyone going, now is a good time to share my guide from visiting Melbourne last year. Happy to answer any questions 🙂.