2021 Australian Open, Day 6 Highlights: Muchova wins the battle of the Karolinas, Vekic saves MP

The third round of the 2021 Australian Open is complete. On the whole, the third round was a bit of a damp squib although it has paved the way for a super Sunday and potentially thrilling conclusion to the tournament. Day 6 had a few more upsets compared to day 5. Again, seven of the eight matches were decided in straight sets. Read on for my notebook from day 6. Previews of Sunday’s matches including Osaka-Muguruza and Halep-Swiatek can be found here.

Day 6️⃣ Results

(28) Donna Vekic d. Kaia Kanepi, 5-7 7-6(2) 6-4

Donna Vekic had the performance of the day on Saturday as she saved a match point to beat the in-form, Kanepi. This was a wonderfully contested match with clean ball striking from start to finish. Along with Hsieh-Errani, the only other three setter of the round, these were the best matches by a country mile. Vekic showed so much character to pull out this win. I thought her mental resolve was exceptional and she responded to disappointing situations with positivity:

  • Vekic quickly went down 5-7 0-3 after folding with scoreboard pressure when serving to stay in the first set. Vekic then upped the aggression and reeled off three straight games to level up at 3-3 in the second set.
  • Vekic failed to convert on five break points at 4-4 in the second set, the best game of the match. Serving in the following game at 5-7 *4-5, Vekic saved a match point with a first serve in play and thunderous forehands. Vekic held to 5-5.
  • Deep in the third set, Vekic found herself down *0-30 at 4-4. Vekic produced some of her best serves of the entire match to hold and then go onto break for the victory.

The 7-5 3-0 scoreline may indicate a choke from Kanepi but it really wasn’t and Vekic deserves much of the credit for the fightback. This was the best match i’ve seen from Vekic in a while and had 2019 vibes. I’ve felt that Vekic hasn’t been the same player since she parted ways with Torben Beltz and grown to think her game is rather one-dimensional. By reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open, Vekic has completed her clean sweep of second week showings at all the Slams. Impressive.

(25) Karolina Muchova d. (6) Karolina Pliskova, 7-5 7-5

The battle of the Karolinas and quarantine practice buddies was a mess of a match. I thought neither played close to their best – perhaps some nerves being such good friends? It was an extraordinary turnaround in the second set as Muchova won the last seven (!!!) games from 0-5 down. I can’t remember Pliskova ever losing a lead in a set like that.

Pliskova’s serve normally gets her out of trouble. On this occasion, it caused her all kinds of trouble. Pliskova hit 10 double faults, many of them on crucial points. There were signs of this in the last round against Collins when Pliskova twice double faulted down break point but she was ultimately let off the hook. Not this time round. Pliskova landed just 58% of first serves in play and won only 55% of points behind it.

Muchova was more effective on serve and had a few flashes of inspired tennis at the ends of both sets. Highlights included a forehand passing shot winners at 5-5 30-30 in the first set and a wonderful all-court point deep in the second set where she chased down a short ball for a winner. I’ve been down on Pliskova for a while and this was a concerning display. Watch out for Karolina Muchova in this draw. Loving her commitment to the “down under” pictures on Instagram 😂 .

(1) Ash Barty d. (29) Ekaterina Alexandrova, 6-2 6-4

Ash Barty was down a break in both sets against Alexandrova but the result never really felt in doubt. It was a very patient display from Barty who won the majority of the extended rallies. Alexandrova has had some great wins of late over the likes of Iga Swiatek and Simona Halep. I never seem to watch her on a good day! I don’t rate Alexandrova highly. She has some huge groundstrokes. All too often though she seems to buckle under pressure. Barty did a good job at forcing errors, 30 in the end for Alexandrova.

Nothing special from Barty. She got the job done in professional fashion and moves into the second week unscathed.

(18) Elise Mertens d. (11) Belinda Bencic, 6-2 6-1

A roaring backhand down-the-line winner from Mertens on match point pretty much summed up this one. It was an emphatic performance from Mertens who did everything well and finished with 22 winners to just seven unforced errors. Mertens wasn’t challenged at all as Bencic had a bad day, particularly on serve. Not a concerning loss for Bencic who I actually thought had a solid tournament considering the circumstances of the hard lockdown and that she had only played two matches sinced February going into the Australian Open.

Mertens has established herself as one of the most reliable and dependable players on the tour. She advances to the second week of a Slam for the fifth time in the last six Slams.

Favourite snap 📸

😍😍😍

Day 7 watchlist 📺

Cancel all your plans for Sunday.

Naomi Osaka vs. Garbiñe Muguruza

Aryna Sabalenka vs. Serena Williams

Simona Halep vs. Iga Swiatek

Marketa Vondrousova vs. Hsieh Su-Wei

Follow Moo’s Tennis Blog on Twitter and Facebook. Feature photo by Omar Boraby Photography.

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