And so we go again… strap yourself in for a feast of tennis over the next three weeks! Two WTA 500 tournaments, the Yarra Valley Classic and the Gippsland Trophy, both began on Sunday with 54-player draws. They’ll be joined on Wednesday by the Grampians Trophy with a 28-player draw for the players who were in hard lockdown. It was an uncomfortable watch to see all the headlines coming out of Melbourne over the past two weeks. I don’t even know where to start with all the drama from quarantine 🙈.
Day 1 of the Melbourne Tennis Extravaganza saw 40 (!) matches on the schedule. I think it will be difficult to distinguish between the Yarra Valley Classic and the Gippsland Trophy, at least until the latter stages. Read on for my day 1 notebook from the matches watched on Sunday’s schedule in Melbs.
Jelena Ostapenko d. Sara Errani, 4-6 6-3 6-1 (Gippsland, R1)
There is something compelling about differing game styles colliding with each other. I’m not sure you can get much more extreme than Jelena Ostapenko against Sara Errani. Naturally I was drawn to this match and it was an interesting watch. Ostapenko should have won the first set, having led 4-2. Errani was three times up a set and a break in the second set. Ostapenko went onto win 10 of the last 11 games.
Ostapenko’s winners to unforced error ratio is normally the clincher. If she can keep them close together then she’s doing well. Her stats were impressive against Errani with 56 winners to 42 unforced errors. This also included 11 double faults in the UE count. I thought the match turned midway during the second set because Ostapenko stopped going for outright winners on return and going so close to the lines. She also improved her first serve percentage. Ostapenko began to build the points better and was dominant in the third set. It was an impressive mental turnaround from Ostapenko having got frustrated at some of the Hawkeye calls – good luck overturning them 😂.
Shelby Rogers d. (12) Fiona Ferro, 6-2 7-5 (Yarra Valley, R1)
Rogers-Ferro was a true 50-50 clash and the bookmakers couldn’t split the pair before the match. It was quite the rollercoaster ride which you don’t really get a sense of from the scoreline. Rogers won 18 of the first 19 points, starting super super sharp. Ferro improved significantly and led 5-1 (!) in the second set. Ferro twice served for the second set but threw in multiple double faults and rash unforced errors as Rogers went onto win the last six games of the match.
I always think it must be tough to adapt if you’re cruising and then your opponent suddenly starts playing better. Rogers’s level didn’t dip that much in the second set and it was more about Ferro upping her game. Ultimately, Rogers did a better job at occupying the baseline and pounced at the end when Ferro faltered. Very impressed of this start by Rogers. Keep an eye on Shelbs this year.
Daria Gavrilova d. Viktoria Kuzmova, 6-2 6-0 (Yarra Valley, R1)
Dasha squared had a great day in Melbourne as the pair both enjoyed emphatic wins. Gavrilova is such a bundle of energy and so watchable. Gavrilova served well and managed to expose Kuzmova’s laboured movement. Kuzmova was flat on the forehand in all manners of speaking. So many went into the net and one even went under the net 👀.
I was high on Kuzmova a few years back. I still remember when I thought she would beat Halep in Madrid and she didn’t win a game 😂. I wouldn’t read too much into this particular performance from Kuzmova but it’s hard not to not to look past her recent form as this was her seventh consecutive straight sets loss. Delighted for Dasha who seems to have turned a corner in her career and is fighting fit. Serena up next. That could be fun.
Daria Kasatkina d. Mihaela Buzarnescu, 6-1 6-1 (Gippsland, R1)
Daria Kasatkina also dropped the two games in an uninspiring match against Buzarnescu. And that really is to be expected with the players coming out of two week quarantine. I’m trying not to be too judgy at some of these results and performances. Kasatkina played a steady, assured match and was quite impressive at the end.
Kasatkina was helped by 30 unforced errors from Buzarnescu who didn’t hold serve once. Buzarnescu is still missing that buzz and it’s sad because she was causing absolute carnage back in 2018. She won her first match in well over a year at Australian Open qualies earlier this month so I will remain hopeful she can rediscover that 2018 form. I don’t know if the injury that halted her run in Montreal is still an issue?
Recommended reading 📚
Enjoyed this piece on Francesca Jones by Simon Cambers. Her take on social media is so true. I’ve definitely tried to spend less time on Twitter myself because I think it’s mostly toxic 😂. I never fare very well though when the tennis is going because it’s the best place to find out what is going on, especially in Oz with the time difference. Jones plays her first match against Nadia Podoroska on Monday.