The quarter-finals are set at the 2019 Sydney International with half of the seeds still remaining in the tournament. We’re fast approaching the first Slam of the year with the draw set to be unveiled for the Australian Open. The draw ceremony is stated to start at 6pm in Melbourne on Thursday night which would be from 7am in the UK. If it’s like previous years, the draw won’t start till nearer 8am! Read on for five stories in Wednesday’s Set Points post.
Barty’s career best win
Opening up the court with angles and making tactically sound decisions to come forward, Ash Barty scored the biggest win of her career by beating the world number one, Simona Halep, 6-4 6-4. As first matches go, this was a tough one for Halep who understandably showed some rust. On a windy day, the Aussie’s slice-heavy game was not exactly ideal for Halep who was lacking rhythm having not played a competitive match in over four months.
Halep’s overall performance was much better than I was expecting. She was hitting the ball fine and seemed OK physically. Halep was pretty positive in press. I wouldn’t label Halep as one of the favourites for the Australian Open. If she can get a decent draw for the first few rounds, then I think she could play her way into form and the second week.
This was great opportunity for Barty and i’m really pleased for her that she managed to take advantage of it. I feel Barty lacked confidence against the top players in 2018 and was anti-clutch at times. Barty played the big points well in this match, particularly at *4-4 in both sets. Early days in 2019 but I think Barty will crack the top ten this year.
A Poots comeback!
Yulia Putintseva matched her previous career best win over the then world number 5 Dominika Cibulkova in St. Petersburg (via Tennis Abstract) by storming past Sloane Stephens, 3-6 7-6(4) 6-0. It was an inspired comeback from Putintseva as Stephens had served for the match leading 6-3 5-4. The last few games were pretty tragic from Stephens. The American had looked in decent form for a set and a half but fell away alarmingly at the end. It felt like a case of one step forward and two steps back having battled so valiantly to win her first round match against Ekaterina Alexandrova.
It was a Poots parade of fist pumping and geeing up the crowd 😂. There was some inspired shotmaking at times and the drop shot return linked below was pretty special.
Kvitova sets up Kerber blockbuster QF
Petra Kvitova won back-to-back matches for the first time since the US Open with a 7-6(2) 6-2 victory over Hsieh Su-Wei. Kvitova will now play Angelique Kerber in Thursday’s night match. Kvitova needed five set points to put away Hsieh in the first set having wasted a 5-2 lead. Hsieh suddenly got involved in the rallies before Kvitova went back into bludgeoning mode from the first set tiebreak onwards.
Kvitova vs. Kerber feels like the biggest match of the new season so far. Their two clashes in 2018 were both one-sided, but they’ve played out a few classics along the way. Kvitova does have a habit of getting up for these big clashes. Still, i’d say advantage Kerber.
Another battling three set win for Bacsinszky
For the second time this week, Timea Bacsinszky came from a set down to record a hard fought three set victory. Bacsinszky beat Sam Stosur, 5-7 6-4 6-3 in two hours and 29 minutes. It was another gritty display from Bacsinszky who gets Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the quarter-finals. I was pleased to see Bacsinszky look a bit more steady on the forehand side and throw in some slices. Via the live rankings, Bacsinszky is set to break back into the world’s top 150 next week 👍.
Madison Keys podcast
I enjoyed the latest TENNIS.com podcast with Madison Keys. I was disappointed not to find out more about why Keys hasn’t played any warm-up tournaments in 2019 so far but it was a good listen and Madison was engaging as always. Note that Keys has been practising in Melbourne this week.