The first round is now complete in Birmingham after an entirely dry day where thankfully the forecasts were all wrong! This was my last day in Birmingham and i’ve really enjoyed these past three days. There will be one final post from the Nature Valley Classic to wrap up my experiences. Read on for the highlights from Wednesday’s action in Birmingham. Next stop – Eastbourne!
Match of the day 🎾
Petra Martic d. Margarita Gasparyan, 6-3 7-6(4) (R2)
The last match that I watched in Birmingham was my favourite of the entire week as Petra Martic saved a set point in the second set to beat Margarita Gasparyan in a delightful contest.
There were so many fantastic rallies and both produced high-quality tennis. Martic had the physio on early in the first set (ankle injury?) after she had complained to the umpire that the court was very slippery. You wouldn’t have guessed she was having a problem because she was playing beautifully! Martic made so few errors as she constructed points beautifully with her slice and maintained great depth throughout the match. Martic pitched it perfectly most of the time as when the opportunity arose, she closed out points at the net.
Gasparyan didn’t play badly in the first set and continued to adopt an aggressive gameplan. It finally started to pay off for her in the second set with Martic resorting to defence. The Russian player, who has the most gorgeous one-handed backhand, had a set point at 5-4*. With a Martic second serve, Gasparyan went all in on the return but sent it way long. The second set went into tiebreak where the pair traded further gruelling rallies that drew extended applause from the crowd. Ultimately Martic’s stunning defence and court craft, as well as a handful of dreamy lobs, helped her advance to the quarter-finals.
I was really hoping for a third set! Both players look in excellent form. In particular, I will be keeping an eye on Martic’s placement in the Wimbledon draw.
Match reviews 🎾
Ash Barty d. Donna Vekic, 6-3 6-4 (R1)
In a tricky opener, Ash Barty got off to a great start on the grass with a straight sets win over the Nottingham finalist, Donna Vekic. It was Vekic who scored the early break as Barty was clearly frustrated with her serve early on.
As the match wore on, Barty seemed to wear down Vekic who became increasingly error-strewn after a decent start. I’ve watched a lot of Ash matches this year so it was a real pleasure to watch her live and see her construct the points. That slice is just lethal! She managed to draw Vekic out wide on the backhand wing and also push her back behind the baseline with the depth on the slice. Barty moved the ball from side-to-side as Vekic struggled to get on the front foot. Aside from a late aggressive flurry from Vekic, Barty was good value for the win.
I do have my reservations as to whether Barty is mentally ready for another Slam title challenge after the long two weeks in Paris and the increase in expectation. Just after this match, spectators flocked to the front to get selfies. But boy, does she look good on the grass!
Venus Williams d. Aliaksandra Sasnovich, 6-3 6-4 (R1)
It was a real coup for the Nature Valley Classic to score Venus Williams in Birmingham and she’ll be back in action on Thursday after a straight sets win over Aliaksandra Sasnovich. I thought it was a really sound display from Venus who landed 69% of first serves in and was striking the ball really well. I thought Sasnovich let Venus off the hook at times with a lot of unforced errors.
I was just two rows from the front today and I had such a great view. Loved taking pictures of Venus today and being so close to the action!
Wang Qiang d. Lauren Davis, 6-3 6-2 (R1)
Venus’s next opponent will be Wang Qiang who defeated Lauren Davis in straights. I stood and watch a few games at the start of the second set. I was surprised by the final scoreline because the games I had watched all seemed to go to deuce and were very closely contested. I liked how Davis was playing with lots of slice and coming forward to the net. Wang Qiang was quite accurate with the passes and generally seemed to be serving effectively. There were a couple of fun rallies and Wang Qiang was really pumped up.
Barbora Strycova d. Hsieh Su-Wei, 7-6(3) 6-3 (R2)
I decided to skip Konta-Ostapenko for Hsieh-Strycova and it was a good choice. I really enjoyed this match and had a great vantage point behind the court where I was able to take in all the spins and variety. The first set was especially good. Hsieh redirected the ball from side-to-side effortlessly, while Strycova tried to get to the net with plenty of S&V. There was just a few points in it with Strycova playing a great point at 4-3 in the first set tiebreak and then Hsieh committing a few untimely unforced errors including an overhead pushed long.
Interestingly, Strycova didn’t face any break points! The Czech player won 74% of points behind her first serve and 75% of points behind her second serve. Also key to the win was Strycova being the more aggressive of the pair and owning the net, managing to finish off a lot of points in the forecourt. Strycova was absolutely fuming at an umpiring call in the last game when serving for the match but managed to calm down and close it out convincingly.
Stat watch 🔢
Via the WTA, the final match on Centre Court between Karolina Pliskova and Kristyna Pliskova was the first time that twin sisters have ever played on the WTA tour. Missed this one as I got wrapped up in Martic-Gasparyan but sounds like another good match with Kristyna getting her best career win!
Point of the day 👏
No doubt the point of the day was from Martic-Gasparyan but I can’t find it – hopefully the WTA will put up some highlights! 🙏🙏🙏
Handshakes and hugs 🤗
Yay for a first live H&H shot of 2019! Nice moment at the net between Hsieh and Strycova.
Favourite snap 📸
Really like this one of Ash moving forward. Also nice to get some sun today which makes such a huge difference ☀.
Recommended media 📺
Lovely interview with Venus. The guy who does the interviews in Birmingham has been excellent.
MTB on social media 🎾
An album of photos from Tuesday in Birmingham is up on the Moo’s Tennis Blog Facebook page.
Around the grounds 👟
I like to use this section for random tidbits around the grounds that I picked up through the day.
I started my day out on Court 3 with Sasno stretches as Aliaksandra Sasnovich warmed up with her team before hitting with Lauren Davis.
Naomi Osaka was practising later in the day on court 4 and she spent quite a long time hitting slices. At one point, I looked over and she was doing press-ups on the grass!
After Ash Barty and Julia Goerges had thumped Dayana Yastremska and Wang Qiang in doubles, Yastremska was back out on the practice court and for ages!
A few nice touches of sportswomanship in the Barty-Vekic match. Barty allowed Vekic a first serve at one point having misheard a call and then later on, Vekic immediately enquired with Barty if she was OK after a slip on the grass.
Favourite spectator comment from the day about Hsieh – “She’s very casual” 😂
Tomorrow’s OOP ⭐
The remaining second round matches will be played on Thursday in Birmingham with Osaka, Barty, V.Williams and Goerges all in action. Most intrigued by Osaka-Poots although would have to favour Osaka on a grass court.