The third round of the 2022 Australian Open is in the books. There’s been a real step-up in the quality of the matches over the past two days after a subdued start to the tournament. There’s been some upsets, notably in the bottom half, but I think the draw has held up reasonably well so far. I still remember the sheer joy at watching back Muguruza-Osaka and Williams-Sabalenka on middle Sunday last year and am excited about Sunday’s matches for this year. Read on for highlights from days 5 and 6…
3rd round stories
Last year’s breakthrough acts are continuing much in the same vein for 2022 so far. The number four seed, Barbora Krejcikova rallied from a set and a break down to beat Jelena Ostapenko, 2-6 6-4 6-4. The success of Ostapenko and her ultra-aggressive approach often comes down to her ratio of hitting winners to unforced errors. When she’s in the plus, Ostapenko normally wins. In this match, Ostapenko hit 40 winners to 35 unforced errors and came out second best, an indicator of the quality on show.
I was trying to pinpoint where the match turned. Leading 6-2 3-1, Ostapenko was peaking hard. A groundstroke that barely drifted long and a double fault ended the zone of peaking but i’d give Krejcikova a large hand in the turnaround as she improved her first serve percentage from 42% in the first set to 72% in the second set. Even her second serves were hitting the mark!
Ostapenko’s level was still pretty high in the third set. This was an excellent match and Krejcikova simply played the big points better, saving break points in three of her five service games in the decider and riding her early break to victory. I still think it’s underrated how Krejcikova has managed to back up her French Open title. In the space of one year, Krejcikova has completed the clean sweep of second week showings at the Slams.
Paula Badosa is also looking in superb form. The Spaniard dropped the middle set to Marta Kostyuk but reset in in the third set to win, 6-2 5-7 6-4. This was a very entertaining match and I thought Badosa was just a touch more solid and stronger on serve. Kostyuk has a very dynamic game but it’s still ragged at times with too many misses and not quite picking the right shot at the right time. I’m sure the balance will come with time. Badosa’s rise to the top ten has happened so quickly and it doesn’t feel out of place at all as she is taking it all in her stride. Badosa is now 75% of the way to the clean sweep in second week Slam showings.
The number one seed, Ash Barty, eased into the second week with a 6-2 6-3 win over Camila Giorgi. Nothing too flashy and completely dominant on serve. Barty has won 58 (!) consecutive service games stretching back to Adelaide. There was one service game where Barty faced *0-40 in the first set. Naturally she avoided the break with some huge first serves. I’m impressed with Barty’s return and I feel like she’s getting a lot more returns back in play. Ash is very much the favourite heading into the second week.
Saturday’s OOP began with another cracking three setter. Danielle Collins against Clara Tauson was probably my favourite third rounder on the schedule and, lo and behold, it did actually live up to the hype in my head! Collins won, 4-6 6-4 7-5 in two hours and 35 minutes. After mounting a comeback in the first set, Tauson led by a set and a break. I thought the turnaround was mostly Collins who found another level and began roaring in classic Dani-yell fashion! The American improved her first serve percentage from 46% in the first set to 81% (!) in the second set.
The third set was brilliant. Tauson saved three match points at 4-5, all on second serves! These were legit saves, especially the second match point. Collins though, who was untroubled on serve in the third set, overcame the disappointment of missing match points to hold and put the pressure right back on Tauson. I think the 4-5 game sapped all of Tauson’s energy as she looked pretty spent at the end. I’m excited to see how Tauson progresses this year and feel even more confident that 2022 will be a banner year for the Dane. Collins is becoming one of the best at coming in cold to tournaments and locking in. She’s a dark horse going into this second week.
The number two seed, Aryna Sabalenka came from a set down to win for the third time this week! Sabalenka beat the number 31 seed, Marketa Vondrousova, 4-6 6-3 6-1. It’s been a pretty heroic effort from Sabalenka to reach the second week with the ongoing saga of the serve. Just the ten double faults for Sabalenka in what was easily her best performance of the year so far.
I thought Vondrousova was excellent in the first set. It was encouraging to see her take a few more risks on her groundstrokes. It was a decent match through the first two sets and I enjoyed the Vondrousova forehand to Sabalenka backhand exchanges. Sabalenka was slightly less than full throttle in the final two sets (if that’s even a thing with Sabalenka) and balanced aggression with precision as Vondrousova’s serve let her down at the end.
Favourite match 🎆
Amanda Anisimova against Naomi Osaka. Match of the tournament. Match of the year so far for me. It was the first match in 2022 where I was living and breathing every point. Anisimova saved two match points in the third set and played a sensational third set extended tiebreak to win, 4-6 6-3 7-6(5).
A few takeaways – I thought Anisimova was outhitting and outserving Osaka for much of the last two sets. So clutch in the final stretch. Osaka played a good match. I just felt her groundstrokes weren’t quite there and to the level that we know she can reach. The first serve was in and out, and she missed some chances on return. All understandable considering how few matches Osaka had played over the past six months.
Overall the standard of ballstriking was immense. I didn’t know which way it would go which made it all the more exciting and the third set tiebreak was such a thrilling finish with the crowd fully engaged. Fun times.
What a moment at the net between Paula Badosa and Marta Kostyuk.
Funny moment 🤣
As mentioned above, Sabalenka celebrating only 10 double faults today 😂.
Super snap 📸
Press highlights 📰
Nice to hear Anisimova talk so fondly of Osaka.
Recommended media 📺
This was a nice interview with Alizé Cornet who reached the second week of the Australian Open, 13 years after achieving that feat for the first time. And a reminder to the interviewer in the second video that it was her birthday!
R3 stats: 7/16 on TDC
R3 highlights: Oof. Top half is holding its ground with all 4 quarter-finalists still in play. Bottom half is… not 😂. Just Halep and Swiatek and the rest is all red ❌.
R4 Previews 🤔
(4) Barbora Krejcikova vs. (24) Victoria Azarenka: Surprised that Azarenka is opening up as the favourite with the bookmakers. It’s 50-50 for me. Azarenka has been irresistable so far but yet to be tested. Head says Krejcikova, heart says Azarenka.
(8) Paula Badosa vs. Madison Keys: Ringing those bells for a first time meeting between last week’s WTA tournament champs. Same as above, this is a tough one to call. Badosa has been mentally sound and Keys looks completely rejuvenated. Slight edge to Badosa.
(1) Ash Barty vs. Amanda Anisimova: Gutted that we don’t get Barty-Osaka but Barty-Anisimova ain’t too shabby. Tend to think it’s going to be tough for Anisimova to back up the huge Osaka win and Barty has been serving so, so well.
(5) Maria Sakkari vs. (21) Jessica Pegula: Miami 2021. Sakkari saved six match points to beat Pegula. Interesting match-up this. Both flying slightly under the radar. I haven’t seen much of Pegula this year so i’m naturally leaning towards Sakkari.
(19) Elise Mertens vs. (27) Danielle Collins: This match gives me similar vibes to Mertens’s last 16 clash with Muchova at the AO last year. Mertens the steadier, Collins more ruthless IMO. Collins for the win.
(2) Aryna Sabalenka vs. Kaia Kanepi: Pray for the balls.
(14) Simona Halep vs. Alizé Cornet: Errr I didn’t realise Cornet had a winning H2H record over Halep?! I’d still put Halep as heavy favourite. It would be a pretty amazing story if Cornet, playing her 60th consecutive Slam, could finally break into her first Slam quarter.
(7) Iga Swiatek vs. Sorana Cirstea: I think Swiatek will be too steady for Cirstea.