Two rounds down and the 2021 Australian Open is shaping up very nicely. The stand-out result on day 4 was the loss of the defending champion, Sofia Kenin. More on that in this post. Kenin was the only seed to lose with nine of the ten seeds in action on Thursday progressing to the last 32. I’m enjoying the tournament so far although sleep is evading me. The aim to not wake up as early on Thursday wasn’t entirely successful. I don’t even need an alarm anymore as my body clock is just tuned to tennis. At least the weekend is coming! Read on for the day 4 notebook…
Day 4️⃣ Highlights
Kaia Kanepi d. (4) Sofia Kenin, 6-3 6-2
This match had upset smacked all over it. I actually thought Kenin would this… nope. Kanepi delivered another seed-slaying-slam performance, winning in just 64 minutes. Kanepi served superbly, hitting 10 aces overall and finishing with back-to-back aces. This was the seventh time that Kanepi has beaten a top 10 player at a Slam while unseeded. Kanepi looks in terrific form and has become a winning juggernaut. If you join up this year’s results with her success on the ITF circuit at the back end of 2020, she’s now won 22 of her last 24 matches.
Kenin actually had some chances early doors. There were three break points in the first game and then another four went missing at 1-3* down as she ballooned returns long. From her first round match and press conference, you could kind of sense that the pressure and nerves of defending was overwhelming. Kenin is always quite open in press and wears her heart on her sleeve. I find it quite refreshing to be honest. She was teary in today’s press conference 😢. I hope she can move on quickly from this tournament. I think she’ll be just fine.
(6) Karolina Pliskova d. Danielle Collins, 7-5 6-2
Pliskova and Collins played each other last week at the Yarra Valley Classic in arguably the highest quality match of 2021 so far. The quality definitely wasn’t as good this time round as Pliskova avenged last week’s loss. I was more surprised by this non-upset than the Kanepi-Kenin result to be honest. Pliskova’s level was akin to their Yarra Valley clash. The difference was simply Collins having a poor serving day. Collins’s first serve percentage in the first set was just 47%. It took Pliskova three attempts at consolidating the break in the first set. She made a bit of a meal the first two times as she twice double faulted down break point. Aside from that, Pliskova was untouchable on serve in the first set.
Collins was missing her usual spark and there weren’t many dani-yells in this match. While Collins upped her first serve percentage to 77% in the second set, she was winning very few free points with it. I felt the troubles on serve leaked into the rest of her game. This was Pliskova’s best win in a while and the first time she has won back-to-back matches since Rome last year.
(5) Elina Svitolina d. Coco Gauff, 6-4 6-3
Svitolina produced a very commanding display to beat Gauff in straights. This was an excellent match. There were just two breaks of serve all match and Svitolina saved all four break points she faced. Gauff’s serve has got a lot of attention over the past year. She actually had a good serving day with 81% (!) of first serves in in the first set. It was just two slightly lapse service games from Gauff that was ultimately the difference.
The second set was PEAK svitolina. She gave so little away and was tough-as-nails. She even found chances to attack and come forward as she won 10 of 14 points at the net. Impressive. Svitolina has now passed two tricky opponents with real gusto. Her draw on paper arguably looks clearer for the next few rounds. I’m always going to be wary with Svitolina after what happened at last year’s French Open. There’s no doubt that she is now the favourite to get out of this second quarter based on seeding and experience.
(1) Ash Barty d. Daria Gavrilova, 6-1 7-6(7)
This was a scrappy match and a stark contrast from Barty’s serene first round display. Barty twice failed to serve out the match at *5-2 and *5-4 in the second set. It was a typically battling display from Gavrilova. I’m so happy she’s back and healthy. Gavrilova is such an asset to the tour and I always seek her matches out on any order of play. She’ll be kicking herself though at missing two set points in the second set tiebreak where she looked to be on the front foot in both points before netting.
A bit worried about Barty’s heavily taped left thigh. I think I also read she had the taping in doubles too? She dismissed any concerns in her post-match interview but she’s not exactly going to say she’s hurting! Something to keep an eye on. I did wonder if the subdued performance was linked to the strapped thigh. In the end, it would have been a huge relief to wrap this up in straights.
Funny moment 🤣
Barty tried to get the crowd to sing to Casey in her post-match interview.
Press conference 📰
A very entertaining Serena press conference from yesterday. She seems in a good mood this week and very relaxed.
Super snap 📸
Loved Petra’s perspective in this tweet. Great shot.
Recommended reading 📚
Two excellent pieces from the Tennis with an Accent team.
Day 5 watchlist 📺
Naomi Osaka vs. Ons Jabeur
Aryna Sabalenka vs. Ann Li
Hsieh Su-Wei vs. Sara Errani
Thoughts up on the preview page here.