Monday’s Set Points, Rome 2019: Azarenka, Keys & Kontaveit advance to R2

Ciao Roma! Monday was the first day of main draw action at the 2019 Internazionali BNL d’Italia with the likes of Serena, Venus, Muguruza and Azarenka all in action and winning through to the second round. Read on for a trio of match reviews including Keys-Hercog and Kontaveit-Barthel, as well as highlights from Monday in Rome.

Match reviews 🎾

Madison Keys d. Polona Hercog, 6-4 7-6(3)

Madison Keys scored her first win on red clay this year with a hard fought victory over Hercog. Keys missed some opportunities in both sets but didn’t let the disappointment overwhelm her. Keys failed to serve out the match at *5-3 in the second set and then missed two match points in the next game. Keys maintained her focus in the tiebreak to come through in straights.

I thought it was a pretty solid match from Keys who had a positive winners to unforced errors differential (25 winners to 22 winners) and won 100% (!) of points behind her first serve in the first set. Hercog produced some wonderful strokes but was increasingly hit-or-miss off the forehand wing. I really like Keys’s game on the clay and she slowly seems to be coming round to this. The kick serve is really effective and I think the surface generally gives her more time to set her up huge groundstrokes. Kenin up next in R2 will be a tough one.

Anett Kontaveit d. Mona Barthel, 4-6 6-4 6-4

Defending semi-final points from last year, Kontaveit got off to a good start with a come-from-behind victory over Barthel. This was a super match and the quality was high from both players in the decider. Kontaveit was wasteful on the break points, missing 5 at 1-1 and a further 3 break points at 2-2. Kontaveit kept attacking, using angles to get Barthel out wide and dictating behind the first serve. Kontaveit was forced to save a break point of her own at 2-3 and then finally made the breakthrough in the next game.

I think this was a big win for Kontaveit after her early exit in Madrid. I think that Kontaveit has doubted herself in many matches and she could have gone away against Barthel after those missed break points. Kontaveit kept plugging away and served out the match to 30 with plenty of first serves in play. Kudos to Anett in the third set when she highlighted one of Barthel’s shots to be on the line when it had been called out. So nice to see such great sportswomanship 👏.

Victoria Azarenka d. Zhang Shuai, 6-2 6-1

Azarenka scored a routine opening round win over Zhang Shuai in the last match of the day in chilly conditions. Azarenka returned very aggressively with Zhang Shuai winning just three (!) of 25 second serve points. It was an excellent all-round display from Azarenka who rushed Zhang Shuai into errors from the baseline and showcased some nice touches of variety.

Next up for Azarenka is the two-time defending champ, Elina Svitolina. All set for Tuesday’s night session on Centrale… count me IN! 😀

Epic match alert 🚨

In a WILD contest, Venus Williams needed NINE match points to beat Elise Mertens, 7-5 3-6 7-6(4) in three hours and two minutes. Only caught the end but very dramatic!

Stat watch 🔢

For the third time this year, Garbiñe Muguruza beat Zheng Saisai in straight sets. It wasn’t an easy match for Muguruza who rallied from a break down in the first set in tricky conditions and against a tricky opponent. Zheng Saisai was disrupting Muguruza’s rhythm early on with loopy balls and lots of slice. An increasingly aggressive Muguruza managed to turn the set around. The second set featured NINE straight breaks of serve until Muguruza managed to serve it out with the lone service hold of the set.

Point of the day 👏

Pinball at the net!

LOL moment 🤣

Serena got the giggles!

Super snap 📸

Via Jimmie48 on Twitter, your daily slice of smiling Petra.

Press highlights 📰

Serena Williams seemed in good spirits in press after a first round win over Rebecca Peterson.

Recommended listening 🎧

Enjoyed the latest WTA Insider podcast with Madrid champ, Kiki Bertens. Very interesting when she said that last year she thought players might have identified her as a seed they would have wanted to play. It’s nice to hear her showing more belief and that she belongs in the world’s top 10, now top 5!

Tomorrow’s OOP ⭐

The first round will conclude on Tuesday, as well as the first of the second rounders. It’s going to be a manic day! A few snap thoughts about the matches that caught my eye.

Jelena Ostapenko vs. Mihaela Buzarnescu (R1): Both have had challenging 2019 seasons up to now, both won a match in Madrid and showed some positive signs. Instinct with Ostapenko.

Julia Goerges vs. Hsieh Su-Wei (R1): Funky clash of styles! I think Goerges is the more comfortable player on clay but she hasn’t won a tour level match since Miami.

Dayana Yastremska vs. Carla Suárez Navarro (R1): Tough opener for Carla at a tournament where she has reached the final before. I’m not convinced, even on clay, that she can fend off the raw power and fearlessness of Yastremska.

Caroline Wozniacki vs. Danielle Collins (R1): Woz pulled out of Madrid with a back injury. I’d tag this with an upset alert for many reasons. Woz has skipped Rome before because of allergies. Collins is such an aggressive hitter and looked really dangerous in Madrid.

Caroline Garcia vs. Kristina Mladenovic (R1): Screamed at this one. They seem to be back on good terms now but still intrigued to see how it pans out. Mlads has qualified for both Madrid and Rome, while Garcia is playing much better after a slow start to the year. Her last four losses have come against top 20 players. I really, really, really hope CarGar wins 😂

Anastasija Sevastova vs. Belinda Bencic (R1): Ding ding ding, new match-up alert. Sevastova’s results have been wild since Miami. Despite the surface clearly favouring Sevastova, i’d tag this with an upset alert with Bencic bringing in momentum from Madrid.

Elina Svitolina vs. Victoria Azarenka (R2): Another week, another brutal draw for Vika. To be fair there are no easy draws these days! I actually think Vika stands a good shot at the upset as Svitolina continues her recovery from a knee injury.

Final thought 🤔

Sending lots of positive vibes to Nicole Gibbs ❤️.

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