Australian Open 2020, Day 1 & 2 Review: Gauff & McNally impress, Zhang beats Stephens again

The first round of the 2020 Australian Open is still ongoing after a mammoth second day that featured a total of 88 singles matches! The first day was a wet one, and the second day was a wild one with an overwhelming amount of tennis. I’m off to watch some more of the matches but here’s some thoughts so far on some of the favourites. This post also previews my top three for Wednesday as the second round begins in Melbourne.

Top stories 📚

1. Gauff beats Venus again

In the stand-out match from the slate of first rounders, Coco Gauff recorded another win over Venus Williams, 7-6(5) 6-3. While it was a bit of a scrappy match, I was so impressed with Gauff’s composure and clarity of thought in the key moments. There definitely seems to be a bit more pop on Gauff’s serve and I liked her use of variety with the slice.

I found myself getting frustrated watching the second set as the commentators on Eurosport were quite negative about Gauff. They were bemoaning her drop shots in the second set at which point, the 15-year-old (15!!!!!!!!!!!) was up a set and a break.

Gauff held onto her break of serve in the second set like a pro to book a second round date with Sorana Cirstea. Even with Venus not at her best (Note – this was Venus’s first competitive match in three months), it was another superb outing from Gauff. She’s so impressive, both on and off the court, as you can see from her press conference.

2. Serena and Osaka start strong

Naomi Osaka and Serena William opened proceedings on Rod Laver Arena on day 1 and both made confident starts to the tournament.

Osaka won the last four games of the match to beat Marie Bouzkova, 6-2 6-4. It was a good opener for Osaka as Bouzkova is a solid player and doesn’t give much away. You have to play well to beat her. Osaka used the angles in the first set to open up the court and didn’t let the second set snowball when Bouzkova broke serve midway through the set. All in all, a decent opener for the defending champion. I feel an affinity to Bouzkova and I like her attitude and general demeanour – she reminds me so much of Lucie!

Serena Williams needed less than an hour to get past Anastasia Potapova, 6-0 6-3. Serena encountered some resistance in the second set from Potapova but responded well to win the last three games. I thought Serena didn’t look super sharp in her movement but she was in control and dominant behind her first serve. A good start and minimal time spent on the court.

3. Halep and Barty tested

Simona Halep and Ash Barty were both tested before advancing to the second round. Halep beat Jennifer Brady, 7-6(5) 6-1. The first set, surely one of the best of the tournament so far, featured some intense rallies as Halep saved three set points. Halep then cruised through the second set. It was a quality win for Halep against a dangerous in-form opponent. Halep’s not one of my favourites for the title but she is definitely not to be discounted.

Barty won 12 of the last 14 games to come from a set down to beat Lesia Tsurenko, 5-7 6-1 6-1. Barty’s range was off in the opener but she never really looked in danger as Tsurenko’s level tailed off. It is the 14th time since last year’s Australian Open that Barty has come from a set down to win in three sets.

4. Caty McNally impresses

Amongst the American teens, all the attention is on Coco Gauff these days but don’t forget Caty McNally! The 18-year-old won through three rounds of qualifying and took out home favourite, Sam Stosur in the first round, 6-1 6-4. I love McNally’s variety and her willingness to come forward. She seems super confident in herself and I think she’s going to have a great year.

5. Upsets

Six seeds have fallen through the first two days with the top ten still intact!

Ons Jabeur d. (12) Johanna Konta, 6-4 6-2 – Considering Konta’s lack of match play, I felt this result coming.

Svetlana Kuznetsova d. (15) Marketa Vondrousova, 6-2 4-6 6-4 – Sounded like a good match and on my list to watch back! Nice to see Sveta enjoying some Slam joy.

Zarina Diyas d. (21) Amanda Anisimova, 6-3 4-6 6-3 – Diyas is a solid player and pretty underrated but still, I was surprised at this result. Anisimova was my second choice for the final from the bottom half (behind Bertens).

Zhang Shuai d. (24) Sloane Stephens, 2-6 7-5 6-2 – The biggest surprise was that Stephens nearly won this having served for the match! Zhang Shuai was flawless in the decider.

Ajla Tomljanovic d. (31) Anastasija Sevastova, 6-1 6-1 – Not a big surprise on recent form but did not expect that scoreline! Sevastova is 0-3 in 2020 while Tomljanovic continues to impress.

Sorana Cirstea d. (32) Barbora Strycova, 6-2 7-6(5) – You never know with Strycova but I wasn’t expecting this result at all.

Super stat 🔢

Zhang Shuai’s first round victory over Sloane Stephens had a strong case of déjà vu. The pair had played on MCA in the first round of the 2018 Australian Open and my first live match from the AO. Stephens served for the match at 6-2 *5-4 but was unable to convert as Zhang rallied to win in three sets, 2-6 7-6(2) 6-2.

Two years on, Stephens found herself in exactly the same position, leading 6-2 5-4 and serving for the match. Unfortunately for Stephens, the outcome was the same again in the third set as Zhang Shuai prevailed 6-2 in the final set.

LOL moment 🤣

I like Ahn’s sense of humour!

Favourite snap 📸

Love this shot of Bouzkova by Jimmie48 Tennis.

Top Tweet 🦅

Liked this tweet from Naomi!

Recommended media 📺

Serena talked about her victory in Auckland in her post-match interview.

Recommended reading 📚

Kiki Bertens is writing for BBC Sport. She talked about everything from the air quality, playing with Barty in Brisbane and her wedding in the off-season including which WTA players attended!

Recommended listening 🎧

The No Challenges Remaining Slam preview is always a must listen.

R2 previews 🤔

My top three for Wednesday…

Dayana Yastremska vs. Caroline Wozniacki: The match of the day. As much as i’d like to see Wozniacki’s final tournament continue, I think Yastremska takes this. Yastremska won their only previous encounter last year in Cincy and has looked in superb form this year after reaching the final in Adelaide. Early days, but the partnership with Sascha Bajin looks like it could be a fruitful one.

Petra Martic vs. Julia Goerges: One of those match-ups where it is not obvious who the seed is. Both Martic and Goerges dropped just three games in their opening round victories. Goerges has won their two previous matches, most recently in Birmingham last year. This feels like a 50-50 match. I’ll go for the unseeded player in Goerges.

Zhang Shuai vs. Caty McNally: Interesting match-up with McNally’s variety going up against Zhang’s aggressive baseline game. Zhang reached the final in Hobart and beat Stephens in the first round, saving the match in the nick of time and with a helping hand form Sloane. While Zhang has all the experience, i’ll take a whirl with McNally who is still a bit of unknown quantity on the tour and has four wins under her belt in Melbs.

Yay 👍

I saw some complaints about Eurosport today on Twitter  but the Eurosport Player has been super for me so far. They’ve come a long way in a few years and now have all the matches available on catch-up. The 15 second flicker is perfect for speeding through matches.

Nay 👎

Wozniacki-Yastremska not on Rod Laver Arena for Wednesday? That’s a real shame, particularly as there is a good chance it will be Wozniacki’s last match based on Yastremska’s recent form. Another random point – does anyone have an explanation for why Hercog-Peterson was on Melbourne Arena on Tuesday?!

Follow Moo’s Tennis Blog on Twitter and Facebook. Feature photo by Omar Boraby Photography.

9 thoughts on “Australian Open 2020, Day 1 & 2 Review: Gauff & McNally impress, Zhang beats Stephens again

  1. Re Hercog, her next opponent Barty was a day ahead, having played Monday. So Hercog, whose match was carried over, was put on a court with a roof Tuesday to guarantee her opener would be played, regardless of weather. As it is, Hercog will have to play Tues and Weds.

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      • You know I worship Sveta but I find it hard to route for her in Slams against these promising young players. She doesn’t really have the drive to go on to win the trophy at the end of it – she’s not in it to win it, only for the fun of playing.

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  2. Thanks for your blog post.

    PS Neither Kiki Bertens, nor any of the previous BBC ‘columnists’ are writing anything (unlike your good self). They’re edited transcripts of interviews. It says at the end of each one. Not sure why the BBC are saying they’re columns.

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