I’m really enjoying the return of the tennis, even with the overwhelming number of matches. I’ve accepted that I can’t follow everything so just trying to pick and choose the matches that interest me and check in on as many players as possible. I’m surprised how well the draws have held up so far, especially the Yarra Valley Classic where 12 of the 16 seeds have reached the third round. Read on for my day 3 notebook where Venus-Petra was the highlight of the day.
(4) Petra Kvitova d. Venus Williams, 7-6(6) 7-5 (Yarra Valley Classic)
During the off-season I was looking back at the WTA Best Matches countdown on MTB. I was tallying up my favourite match-ups from the past ten years and unsurprisingly, Petra Kvitova vs. Venus Williams ranked second. Kudos to this first week in Oz which is delivering with the match-ups as we received the gift of another Petra-Venus clash, their eighth meeting on the WTA tour. I’m kind of gutted though that this was over in straights because it snaps their run of seven consecutive three setters!!!
While unlikely to be a match of the year contender, It was another very enjoyable contest and a high quality match with both players hitting more winners than unforced errors. Even if they both played poorly, i’d still want to watch because I am so invested in this match-up. It was a decent display from Venus who was clutch on serve in the first set and then fought back from a break down in the second set, even having a break point at 4-4. Kvitova was rusty in the first four games but soon found her range and timing. I always felt like Kvitova had the upper hand in the rallies. The Czech player hit some angelic winners, notably going down-the-line with the forehand. I think the highlight for Petra was the game at 5-5 in the second set – absolute Peak Petra!
Kaia Kanepi d. (4) Aryna Sabalenka, 6-1 2-6 6-1 (Gippsland Trophy)
I love how Kaia Kanepi pops up every now and then to remind us that she is the ultimate seed-slayer on the WTA tour. Of course she would be the player to snap Aryna Sabalenka’s 15 match winning streak and she’d do it in her classic nonchalant Kaia way. The match was as lopsided as the scoreline suggested. In the first set, Sabalenka simply couldn’t find the court. Sabalenka improved in the second set and was then knocking on the door at the start of the third set for an early break. Kanepi held on in a lengthy opening service game and then took over the momentum baton once more as Sabalenka returned to her wildly erratic first set level. Kanepi needed six match points to seal the win.
Not sure how much to read into this result for Sabalenka. Perhaps a loss tempers the expectation a tad for the Australian Open which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I would liken Sabalenka to how I viewed Kvitova at the Slams a few years back. If she survives the nervy opening rounds and makes the second week, then she will be one of the favourites to win the tournament. It’s the first week that concerns me.
(6) Iga Swiatek d. Kaja Juvan, 2-6 6-2 6-1 (Gippsland Trophy)
There’s always plenty of intrigue around first-time Slam winners and how they adapt to the new situation as the attention and expectation changes overnight. Swiatek, playing her first match since winning the French Open, struggled early doors. She was spraying forehands and looked tense as Kaja Juvan played a sensational opening set. Juvan was unable to maintain the first set level though as her error count mounted from the middle of the second set onwards.
It was an impressive comeback from Swiatek who won ten of the last eleven games. Swiatek maintained her composure and became increasingly aggressive as she took control of the match. Swiatek is now just one match away from a potential French Open rematch with Simona Halep.
There’s been a mix of racket taps, handshakes and even the odd hug. I liked this moment between good friends, Iga Swiatek and Kaja Juvan, who went for the socially distanced hug.
Day 4 watchlist 📺