Wednesday was one of the most manic days of tennis that I can remember. It was the last 16 of the Yarra Valley Classic and the Gippsland Trophy, as well as the first round of the Grampians Trophy. The recent news coming out of Melbourne is that there will be no play on Thursday after a worker at one of the quarantine hotels tested positive for COVID. This means that any casual contacts (of which there are reported to be 500 to 600 players, officials and support staff) will have to isolate before being tested. It just emphasises the challenge of trying to put on an event in these uncertain times. Let’s see how things unfold tomorrow…
Danielle Collins d. Karolina Pliskova, 7-6(5) 7-6(3) (Yarra Valley Classic)
This was definitely the highest quality match i’ve seen in Australia so far. I’m scratching my head at how Danielle Collins is only ranked number 46 in the world because she’s been dicing up draws since this time last year. Pliskova played well but just didn’t take some of her chances. Pliskova was up an early break in the first set. In a second set that went entirely with serve, Pliskova had a trio of break points at 4-3 in the second set which she played poorly.
Pliskova was beaten out by an inspired opponent as Collins peaked in the middle of both tiebreaks. In the first set tiebreak, Collins landed a pair of mean returns. In the second tiebreak, it was a pair of hot shots including a ripping forehand passing shot winner. After dropping her opening service game, Collins wasn’t broken again in a superb serving performance which she referenced in her post-match interview. Collins has beaten the likes of Svitolina, Kenin, Bencic, Muguruza and now Pliskova in the last year. And some of them were absolute roastings. Collins is going to be one of the most dangerous unseeded players at the Australian Open – NO ONE will want to face her!
Ash Barty d. Marie Bouzkova, 6-0 4-6 6-3 (Yarra Valley Classic)
I’ve really missed watching Ash Barty play tennis. The way she constructs points is second to none. This was an entertaining match and both players came out of it positively. Barty’s all-court game was flourishing in the first set as she gave Bouzkova the runaround. While the first set scoreline was very harsh on Bouzkova, it was still a surprising turnaround in the second set as Barty had been in cruise control. Bouzkova held serve at *1-2 from 0-30 and then broke Barty’s serve with a pair of return winners in the next game. Bouzkova front ran the second set brilliantly.
Into a third set and Bouzkova grew in confidence as she started to show off her all-court game. At 3-3, I thought Bouzkova might just do it. Barty’s champion instincts kicked in as she rallied from 0-30 down at 3-3, aided by the serve and forehand like always, as she went onto win the last three games. Bouzkova has such a great attitude and mentality, and it’s going to take her far. I thought there would be more rust for Barty who hadn’t played a competitive match since February 2020. Ash is looking really good.
Garbiñe Muguruza d. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 6-1 6-2 (Yarra Valley Classic)
It’s like night and day comparing Muguruza’s performances in Abu Dhabi to Melbourne. Muguruza played a greattt match as she thoroughly overwhelmed Pavlyuchenkova in two pretty quick sets. I’d noted in Abu Dhabi that Muguruza was very passive in her last match against Sakkari. There was nothing passive about this performance. Muguruza kept charging the net in the first set and then stuck to the baseline more in the second set with some aggressive hitting. Pavlyuchenkova had an early break in the second set but couldn’t consolidate as Muguruza won the last five games of the match.
A curious case of head-to-heads for Pavlyuchenkova. Pavs just beat Anastasija Sevastova for the eighth consecutive time. Against Muguruza, she’s now 1-6 with her only win coming via retirement in Stuttgart. A rematch of last year’s Australian Open final looms on the horizon…
Day 5 watchlist 📺
I don’t know if the pre-AO tournaments are going to finish. If they do, there are some super match-ups to look forward to in the next round…
Sofia Kenin vs. Garbiñe Muguruza (Yarra Valley Classic)
Serena Williams vs. Danielle Collins (Yarra Valley Classic)
Elina Svitolina vs. Elise Mertens (Gippsland Trophy)
Victoria Azarenka vs. Yulia Putintseva (Grampians Trophy)
Angelique Kerber vs. Ons Jabeur (Grampians Trophy)