2021 Australian Open, Day 1 Highlights: Pera knocks out Kerber, Andreescu’s return

Ready. Steady. Go! The 2021 Australian Open is underway and day 1 was all about the loaded bottom half of the women’s draw. It was actually a relatively quiet day for the seeds. I definitely expected more carnage to be honest. Three seeds fell on day 1 – Angelique Kerber, Alison Riske and Wang Qiang. The latter two weren’t all that surprising and more on Kerber in this post. Read on for my notebook from day 1.

Day 1️⃣ Highlights

(8) Bianca Andreescu d. Mihaela Buzarnescu, 6-2 4-6 6-3

Bianca’s back. I really didn’t know what to expect from Andreescu in her first match in over 15 months. She was extraordinary when she came back to the tour following a lay-off in 2019. This break was much, much longer and felt different. Andreescu played a very composed opening set, ending with some brilliant backhands. Buzarnescu gained some confidence in the second set  with a couple of holds and began to show flashes of peak Buz, drilling winners down-the-line.

It was Buzarnescu who chalked up the first break points of the third set. Vintage Andreescu came to the fore as she clawed her way out of a *0-40 hole at *3-3. All three break points were saved with winners and successful one-two punches. After a close call on serve, Andreescu then broke Buzarnescu and served out the win to extend her winning streak at the Slams to eight. It’s very exciting to have Andreescu back on the tour and next up is Hsieh in R2. Bring it on…

Bernarda Pera d. (23) Angelique Kerber, 6-0 6-4

Bernarda Pera scored another huge win at the Australian Open. Pera’s career best win was in Melbs in 2018 when she beat the then world number 10, Johanna Konta. This win over Kerber was surprisingly, just her fifth top 30 win. The first set and a half was a complete demoliton job. Kerber didn’t look good at all and was slow to react on the second ball of many rallies, barely moving for some of Pera’s winners. It took Kerber until the ninth game to hit a winner and until the tenth game to get on the board.

I’ve never been convinced by Pera between the ears. Via Tennis Abstract, i’ve noted that Pera has lost a match from a set up six times in the past year. Pera served for this match at 6-0 *5-4 and I kind of expected Kerber to break back. Pera proved me wrong as she saved three break points from *0-40 to serve out the upset. Very impressive. A tough one for Angie. She was asked in press about the impact of hard lockdown (see below). You could kind of see it in the first set. While she did improve in the second set, she left herself too much to ground to make up.

(3) Naomi Osaka d. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 6-1 6-2

Osaka laid down the gauntlet with a very impressive performance to open up proceedings on the Rod Laver Arena. Pavlyuchenkova was one of the toughest first round draws, ranked number 39 in the world and with history in Melbs having reached the quarter-finals in three of the last four year. Osaka made Pavs look rather ordinary as she cruised past in just 68 minutes.

I was most impressed by the Osaka return. She consistently returned with excellent depth and so many were right at Pavlyuchenkova’s feet in the first set. Osaka was mostly untouchable on serve. First challenge passed with flying colours. Osaka will need to maintain that form in the next round as she takes on Caroline Garcia.

(10) Serena Williams d. Laura Siegemund, 6-1 6-1

Serena followed Osaka with an even more dominant performance, dropping just the two games in 56 minutes! It took Serena a few games to find her stride. When she did, she was on an absolute roll. Serena’s returns were potent and Siegemund really struggled with the first rally ball on the serve. It’s something I am noticing a lot of since the resumption of the tour in Australia. Serena’s movement too was sharp. I thought this might be mildly competitive but not to be at all. Siegemund missed a lot of balls. Serena too good.

(9) Petra Kvitova d. Greet Minnen, 6-3 6-4

The second set score masks what was a really tricky time for Kvitova. The Czech player won the last five games of the match, rallying from 1-4 down in the second set. It wasn’t the cleanest of displays from Kvitova who served 10 double faults, quite a few of them in bunches. Minnen played really well at the start of the second set which was mostly down to getting a high percentage of first serves in play.

While Kvitova’s serve was leaky, she found big serves when it really counted. Kvitova saved three break points at *3-4 in the second set and then played a tremendous return game to break Minnen. Kvitova served out the win to 15. It was a rapid turnaround in that second set from Kvitova and she did a good job to get it done in straights and onto the next one.

(17) Elena Rybakina d, Vera Zvonareva, 4-6 6-4 6-4

I went for Rybakina in my draw but I was wary as this felt like a 50-50 match with a mild upset alert. I caught the end of the match and there wasn’t much to separate the pair. Rybakina saved a break point at 4-4 in the third set with a big serve that lined up a weighty forehand. Zvonareva couldn’t get the ball back over the net. Rybakina played an excellent return game to seal a noteworthy win. It doesn’t get any easier for Rybakina in the next round as she plays Fiona Ferro who ended her run at Roland Garros in the same round.

Super stat 🔢

Wimbledon 2011: Rebecca Marino d. Patricia Mayr-Achleitner, 6-3 7-6(5)

Australian Open 2021: Rebecca Marino d. Kimberly Birrell, 6-0 7-6(9)

Rebecca Marino won her first Slam main draw match in nearly ten years. Thrilled for Rebecca!

Hot shot 🔥


Favourite snap 📸

Something a bit different. Loved this shot.

Recommended listening 🎧

Enjoyed the Tennis with an Accent preview for the Australian Open. Loved Mert’s final prediction of Osaka-Muchova! Muchova-Collins third round was one of my deliberation picks. My bro and I compared our draws last night and he had Muchova to the QFs as well. I’ve always said he’s a lucky duck so i’m now convinced Muchova is going all the way 😂.

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