Tag: arina rodionova

2021 Adelaide International: Day 1 of qualifiers sees Americans and Aussies dominate

THE Adelaide International qualifying rounds have begun, with a flurry of American and Australian competitors taking the court in South Australia and at least one player from each of the two nations playing in each match. They combined for eight of the 12 winners on the day, including top seed youngster Coco Gauff and unseeded wildcard Storm Sanders, who disposed of second seed American Bernarda Pera in three sets.

In an interesting stat, the top four seeds all hailed from the United States, with just Pera falling from that group. Gauff was clinical in her encounter with Great Britain’s Francesca Jones, disposing of the Brit in 64 minutes and joined by Madison BrengleChristina McHale and Caty McNally on the winners list. Also hailing from the United States but falling in the first round was Asia Muhammad, who stole the first set from Italian Jasmine Paolini but eventually fell in the lone two-plus hour encounters of the day, going down to the sixth seed 4-6 6-3 7-6.

Heading to the Australian winners, and it was Maddison InglisAstra Sharma and Ellen Perez who joined Sanders in the second round, with Inglis knocking compatriot Belinda Woolcock out of the running. Destanee AiavaArina RodionovaLizette CabreraIvana Popovic and Kimberly Birrell will all remain on the sidelines on home soil, unlucky to all draw seeds. Sanders and Sharma impressed with their three set victories over Pera and Lesia Tsurenko showing plenty of intent ahead of the second round.

The remaining non American or Australian winners included Liudmila SamsonovaMisaki Doi and Kaja Juvan, as all three competitors claimed straight set wins over homegrown talent.

The qualifiers will continue today with the first round beginning on Tuesday.

Australian Open Women’s Round of 128 wrap: Barty dominates as Sherif first Egyptian woman to make it to grand slam second round

A flurry of exciting players joined the Australian Open fray on Day 2 of proceedings at Melbourne Park, with world number one Ash Barty making her Open return in smashing fashion, while the likes of Sofia KeninElina Svitolina and Karolina Pliskova all came out flying as the top seeds of the day. In a highly competitive day of action – with nine matches going to three sets and four of those hitting the two-hour and 30-minute mark – just a couple of seeded competitors fell, with 12th seed Victoria Azarenka leading the pack after an excellent outing from American Jessica Pegula, while Johanna Konta retired from her 6-4 0-2 encounter with Slovenian Kaja JuvanPetra Martic struggled to maintain composure after Serbian qualifier Olga Danilovic took out the first set tiebreaker, eventually going down 7-5 3-6 6-4, while Maria Sakkari was error-ridden in defeat, and 31st seed Zhang Saisai was exposed by American Ann Li who hit 22 winners to Zhang’s two to come away with a 6-2 6-0 victory in 47 minutes.

But while a 47-minute victory was one thing, Barty’s 6-0 6-0 utter domination of Danka Kovinic was another, with the Australian disposing of the world number 82 in just 44 minutes. Collecting 10 winners for five unforced error’s compared to Kovinic’s three and 28, Barty dismantled her opposition on home soil and proved far too good for the Montenegrin, who spent 20,120 minutes in hotel quarantine in Melbourne for a devastating 44 minutes of play. Barty is joined by a couple of compatriots in the second round, as Daria Gavrilova and Sam Stosur were both successful on their opening day. World number 387 Gavrilova stunned 64th ranked Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo on return with a 6-1 first set setting up a straight sets 6-1 7-5 victory, while Stosur downed compatriot Destanee Aiava 6-4 6-4. Kenin’s outing against fellow Australian Maddison Inglis may not have been quite as dominant, but she still came away with a classy 7-5 6-4 victory over the Australian who is still yet to win an match on the WTA Tour, while a duo of green and gold wildcards in Astra Sharma and Arina Rodionova will join Inglis and Aiava on the sidelines.

Mayar Sherif became the first Egyptian woman to make it past the first round at a Grand Slam with her 7-5 7-5 victory over Frenchwoman Chloe Paquet, joined by Danilovic and Liudmila Samsonova as the only qualifiers to make it through the day, while young gun Coco Gauff continued her running grand slam form with a 6-3 6-2 sweep of Jil Teichmann to head into yet another second round at a major tournament. Powerhouses Pliskova and Svitolina may have had supremely different playing times – 47 minutes and two hours, respectively – but both also head into the second round, after disposing of Jasmine Paolini and Marie Bouzkova, while the seeded duo is joined in the second round by a flurry of top talent as 2020 Australian Open runner up Garbine MuguruzaBelinda BencicElise Mertens and Anett Kontaveit all came away with excellent wins, as did Jennifer Brady, Karolina MuchovaYulia PutintsevaDonna Vekic and Ekaterina Alexandrova with all bar five seeds making it out alive on Day 2 of the Open.

The second round of action begins at Melbourne Park today, with the day session headlined by the likes of Serena Williams and Bianca Andreescu, while the night session will see Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep take the court against unseeded opposition in Caroline Garcia and Ajla TomljanovicVenus Williams will look to continue her run when she takes on Italian qualifier Sara Errani, while Iga Swiatek will take on Errani’s higher ranked compatriot Camila Giorgi.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN WOMEN’S ROUND OF 128 RESULTS:

[1] Ash Barty (AUS) defeated Danka Kovinic (MON) 6-0 6-0
[4] Sofia Kenin (USA) defeated [WC] Maddison Inglis (AUS) 7-5 6-4
[5] Elina Svitolina (UKR) defeated Marie Bouzkova (CZE) 6-3 7-6
[6] Karolina Pliskova (CZE) defeated Jasmine Paolini (ITA) 6-0 6-2
[11] Belinda Bencic (SUI) defeated Lauren Davis (USA) 6-3 4-6 6-1
Jessica Pegula (USA) defeated [12] Victoria Azarenka (BLR) 7-5 6-4
Kaja Juvan (SLO) defeated [13] Johanna Konta (GBR) 4-6 2-0 RET
[14] Garbine Muguruza (ESP) defeated [LL] Margarita Gasparyan (RUS) 6-4 6-0
[Q] Olga Danilovic (SRB) defeated [16] Petra Martic (CRO) 7-5 3-6 6-4
[18] Elise Mertens (BEL) defeated Leylah Fernandez (CAN) 6-1 6-3
Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) defeated [20] Maria Sakkari (GRE) 6-2 0-6 6-3
[21] Anett Kontaveit (EST) defeated Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR) 7-5 6-2
[22] Jennifer Brady (USA) defeated Aliona Bolsova (ESP) 6-1 6-3
[25] Karolina Muchova (CZE) defeated Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) 7-5 6-2
[26] Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) defeated Sloane Stephens (USA) 4-6 6-2 6-3
[28] Donna Vekic (CRO) defeated Wang Yifan (CHN) 4-6 6-3 6-4
[29] Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) defeated Martina Trevisan (ITA) 6-3 6-4
Ann Li (USA) defeated [31] Zhang Saisai (CHN) 6-2 6-0
Coco Gauff (USA) defeated Jil Teichmann (SUI) 6-3 6-2
[WC] Daria Gavrilova (AUS) defeated Sara Sorribes Tormo (ESP) 6-1 7-5
Danielle Collins (USA) defeated Ana Bogdan (ROU) 6-3 6-1
Nao Hibino (JPN) defeated [WC] Astra Sharma (AUS) 2-6 6-3 7-5
Madison Brengle (USA) defeated [WC] Arina Rodionova (AUS) 6-1 6-2
Kaia Kanepi (EST) defeated Anastasija Sevastova (EST) 6-3 6-1
Heather Watson (GBR) defeated Kristyna Pliskova (CZE) 7-6 7-6
[Q] Liudmila Samsonova (RUS) defeated Paula Badosa (ESP) 6-7 7-6 7-5
Nadia Podoroska (ARG) defeated Christina McHale (USA) 6-4 6-4
Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) defeated Barbora Strycova (CZE) 6-2 6-2
Zhu Lin (CHN) defeated [Q] Whitney Osuigwe (USA) 6-1 6-1
[WC] Sam Stosur (AUS) defeated [WC] Destanee Aiava (AUS) 6-4 6-4
[Q] Mayar Sherif (EGY) defeated [Q] Chloe Paquet (FRA) 7-5 7-5
Alison Van Uytvanck (BEL) defeated [Q] Clara Burel (FRA) 4-6 6-3 6-4
Shelby Rogers (USA) defeated [Q] Francesca Jones (GBR) 6-4 6-1
Mona Barthel (GER) defeated [Q] Elisabetta Cocciaretto (ITA) 3-6 6-4 6-4

WTA 500 wraps: Seeds stumble in Yarra Valley Classic as Australians fall across the board

ON the opening day of the WTA Tour’s Summer Series in Australia, all bar one of the host nation’s players fell, while a couple of French seeds bowed out in the first round at the Yarra Valley Classic.

Kicking off the 2021 Summer Series in the Yarra Valley Classic, a couple of Americans in Shelby Rogers and Jessica Pegula both made life difficult for their French opponent’s Australian Open preparations. Rogers defeated 12th seed Fiona Ferro 6-2 7-5, while Pegula was too good for 15th seed Kristina Mladenovic 6-4 6-1. Only one of the three seeds on day one secured a spot in the second round, as 16th seed Czech Marie Bouzkova smashed local hope Sam Stosur, 6-2 6-0.

It was one of a number of Australians who fell across the day’s play with Kimberley Birrell, Lizette Cabrera and Maddison Inglis all losing out in first round encounters. Birrell and Inglis fell in straight sets to German Mona Barthel and Swede Rebecca Peterson respectively, whilst Cabrera pushed Russian Varvara Gracheva, but went down in three sets, 2-6 6-4 6-2. Other one-sided contests included Australia’s sole winner on day one, Daria Gavrilova, having a 6-2 6-0 smashing of Slovakian Viktoria Kuzmova.

In other results, Ana Bogdan took care of Russian Kamila Rakhimova, Grand Slam winner Venus Williams proved too good for Dutchwoman Arantxa Rus, fellow veteran Tsvetana Pironkova won over Liudmila Samsonova, and Anastasia Sevastova defeated American Madison Brengle in straight sets. In only one of two three-set matches, Italian Elisabetta Cocciaretto came back from the brink after losing the first set 6-0 to China’s Lin Zhu, to win the second set, but then find herself down in the third, but bounced back to win 0-6 6-3 7-5 and advanced through to the Round of 32.

YARRA VALLEY CLASSIC ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

Shelby Rogers (USA) defeated [12] Fiona Ferro (FRA) 6-2 7-5
Jessica Pegula (USA) defeated [15] Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) 6-4 6-1
[16] Marie Bouzkova (CZE) defeated Sam Stosur (AUS) 6-2 6-0
Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL) defeated Liudmila Samsonova (RUS) 6-2 6-1
Venus Williams (USA) defeated Arantxa Rus (NED) 6-1 6-3
Mona Barthel (GER) defeated Kimberley Birrell (AUS) 7-5 6-3
Daria Gavrilova (AUS) defeated Viktoria Kuzmova (SVK) 6-2 6-0
Varvara Gracheva (RUS) defeated Lizette Cabrera (AUS) 2-6 6-4 6-2
Rebecca Peterson (SWE) defeated Maddison Inglis (AUS) 6-2 6-1
Ana Bogdan (ROU) defeated Kamilla Rakhimova (RUS) 6-2 6-2
Anastasia Sevastova (LAT) defeated Madison Brengle (USA) 6-4 6-2
Elisabetta Cocciaretto (ITA) defeated Lin Zhu (CHN) 0-6 6-3 7-5

In the Gippsland Trophy which was also held in Melbourne Park, three of the four seeds got up to win their first round matches, but it was more disappointment for the home nation across the board, with the three Australians out on court losing their Round of 64 encounters.

Seeds, Jelena Ostapenko and Polona Hercog both recorded three-set wins over their respective opponents after slow starts, as the 13th seed Latvian toppled former Top 5 player Sara Errani 4-6 6-3 6-1, while Hercog knocked off Russian Margarita Gasparyan 2-6 6-3 6-3. Caroline Garcia became the only Frenchwoman to win across either tournament when she knocked off Australia’s Arina Rodionova 6-3 6-4, whilst Rodionova’s compatriots, Olivia Gadecki and Astra Sharma both went down in three-set losses.

Gadecki was brave against Bernarda Pera before losing 6-7 6-3 6-3 in a tight contest, while Sharma stunned Estonian Kaia Kanepi in the first set 6-1, before ultimately being overrun 1-6 7-5 6-2. In another three-set match, Irina-Camelia Begu came from behind to knock off China’s Saisai Zheng. The 11th seed won the first set 6-3, but Begu managed to get it back on her terms and hold off her Chinese opponent to win 3-6 7-5 6-4 in and impressive victory.

Other three-set winners included Slovenian Kava Juvan who knocked off China’s Yafan Wang, 4-6 6-1 6-4, while German Andrea Petkovic got over Italian Martina Trevisan, 6-1 3-6 7-5. Over to the straight set winners and Hungarian Timea Babos defeated Romania’s Patricia Tig, Anna Schmiedlova toppled Valeria Savinykh 6-1 6-3, Jasmine Paolini won a hard-fought tussle over Canada’s Rebecca Marino 7-6 6-3, while Daria Kasatkina and Danka Kovinic won comfortably against Mihaela Buzarnescu and Tamara Zidansek respectively.

GIPPSLAND TROPHY ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

Irina-Camelia Begu (ROU) defeated [11] Saisai Zheng (CHN) 3-6 7-5 6-4
[12] Caroline Garcia (FRA) defeated Arina Rodionova (AUS) 6-3 6-4
[13] Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) defeated Sara Errani (ITA) 4-6 6-3 6-1
[15] Polona Hercog (SLO) defeated Margarita Gasparyan (RUS) 2-6 6-3 6-3
Kaja Juvan (SLO) defeated Yafan Wang (CHN) 4-6 6-1 6-4
Timea Babos (HUN) defeated Patricia Tig (ROU) 7-6 6-3
Andrea Petkovic (GER) defeated Martina Trevisan (ITA) 6-1 3-6 7-5
Anna Schmiedlova (SVK) defeated Valeria Savinykh (RUS) 6-1 6-3
Bernarda Pera (USA) defeated Olivia Gadecki (AUS) 6-7 6-3 6-3
Kaia Kanepi (EST) defeated Astra Sharma (AUS) 1-6 7-5 6-2
Jasmine Paolini (ITA) defeated Rebecca Marino (CAN) 7-6 6-3
Daria Kasatkina (RUS) defeated Mihaela Buzarnescu (ROU) 6-1 6-1
Danka Kovinic (MCE) defeated Tamara Zidansek (SLO) 6-3 6-3

Picture credit: Getty Images

Top Seed Open draws Serena Williams to the fray

A BRAND new tournament starts up this week in Lexington, Kentucky, with the Top Seed Open set to host a wealth of top ranked players from the North America region in the lead up to the US Open, with hard court experience essential on the return of the tour.

Ninth ranked Serena Williams headlines the Top Seed Open, with the Grand Slam champion eager to return to the court regardless of the type of event, with the champion not typically attending International events. She is joined by sister Venus (67th), as well as a host of quality American talent in Amanda Anisimova (28th), Sloane Stephens (37th), Coco Gauff (52nd) and Belarusians Aryna Sabalenka (11th) and Victoria Azarenka (58th).

Johanna Konta, Garbine Muguruza, Yulia Putintseva and Magda Linette round out the top eight seeds at the Lexington event in what is anticipated to be a good warm-up for the US Open.

The top eighth of the draw looks like a Throwback, with both Williams sisters and Azarenka there, with Venus up against the Belarusian in the first round and Serena almost certainly waiting in the second round. The first Australian to play since the restart, Ajla Tomljanovic takes on Putintseva in the opening round, while watch for Swiss up and comer Jil Teichmann, who forgoed defending a couple of tournaments in Europe to play in Lexington.

At the opposite end of the draw, a likely second round clash between Sabalenka and Gauff could take place symbolising the next Williams and Azarenka who could be going head-to-head at the same time. Even the qualifying draw has its fair share of talent with young gun Leylah Fernandez returning to the court, with American Ann Li, as well as another Australian in Arina Rodionova.

Gauff’s youth injects an exciting element with the youngster able to ply her trade against any number of top ranked players when she is on song, with some wins here critical if she is to head up the rankings and gain some precious experience heading into the US Open. Serena Williams is much the same, with the 23-time Grand Slam champion hoping to draw level with Margaret Court with another US Open victory on the board.

No spectators will attend the event, with strict protocols in place and rigorous testing to ensure further tournaments down the track will not be impacted. While a draw is yet to be announced, the calibre of talent ensures some enticing contests along the way to the inaugural Top Seed Open final and inevitable champion.

Fed Cup fantasy tennis: 2020 Tournament preview

LIKE every sport on the planet right now, tennis is in hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This means no live sport for the time being, and everyone is scrambling for whatever sport they can find be it the Belarusian Premier League, Tajikistan Basketball League or Ukrainian table tennis. Next week would have seen the Fed Cup take place with the teams qualified and the groups decided, but of course it, like many other events, has been postponed. But it does not mean one cannot simulate possible events for the most likely outcome and look back to see the supposed accuracy. At Draft Central, that is what we will look to do, with daily updates of each group next week. Let us take a look at the 12 qualified teams and the format.

Competitors: (Seeds in brackets)

Group A: France (1), Russia, Hungary
Group B: Australia (2), Belarus, Belgium
Group C: USA (3), Spain, Slovakia
Group D: Czech Republic (4), Germany, Switzerland

Format: (**Doubles players)

Each tie features two singles matches and a doubles rubber from which the winner is determined in a best-of-three tie. The finalists get automatic entry into the 2021 Fed Cup, those finishing third to 10th head to the Qualifiers in 10 months time, and then the bottom two nations have to face-off in regional Group I events.

GROUP A PREVIEW:

[1] France: Kristina Mladenovic**, Carolina Garcia**, Alize Cornet, Pauline Parmentier
[7] Russia: Ekaterina Alexandrova, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Veronika Kudermetova**, Anna Blinkova**
[15] Hungary: Timea Babos**, Reka-Luca Jani**, Dalma Galfi, Adrienn Nagy

The first group will ultimately be decided between France and Russia with the two nations having very capable players at the top-end. The Russians have been in-form in terms of their recent singles results and will head in with Alexandrova and Pavlyuchenkova as the main two singles, with Kudermetova and Blinkova set to compete in the doubles. France does not have the depth it once had, but they are the reigning champions and seeded one overall, though expect Mladenovic and Garcia to do most of the heavy lifting. Hungary did not utilise star doubles talent and top singles player, Babos last year due to injury, but expect her to return and lead the massive underdogs on their home soil. She is the only player ranked inside the top 200 from her nation, so they are not expected to progress much further.

GROUP B PREVIEW:

[2] Australia: Ash Barty**, Ajla Tomljanovic, Samantha Stosur**, Maddison Inglis
[5] Belarus: Aryna Sabalenka**, Victoria Azarenka**, Aliaksandra Sasnovich, Olga Govortsova
[12] Belgium: Elise Mertens**, Alison Van Uytvanck, Kirsten Flipkens**, Greet Minnen

Australia’s side has been terrific over the last couple of years, largely due to having the number one player in the world in Barty. She will be hard to beat regardless of opponent, but expect her to team up with Tomljanovic in the singles. Stosur is a specialist doubles player, but still ranked inside the top 100 for singles, while in this simulation, Inglis has been handed a potential debut as the fourth highest ranked Aussie, though the likes of Priscilla Hon and Arina Rodionova would be considered. Belarus is a real danger for Australia and the Aussies would be disappointed to have copped a side with two top 20 doubles players in it. All three of their top players are capable at either format, and would challenge Australia’s second singles player to force a doubles. For Belgium, they too are good at doubles with Mertens and Flipkens inside the top 30, while Van Uytvanck is in good form of late. They cannot be overlooked, but an underdog in a tough group.

GROUP C PREVIEW:
[3] USA: Sofia Kenin**, Serena Williams, Alison Riske, Bethanie Mattek-Sands**
[9] Spain: Garbine Muguruza, Carla Suarez Navarro, Sara Sorribes Tormo**, Georgia Garcia Perez**
[10] Slovakia: Viktoria Kuzmova**, Magdalena Rybarikova, Anna Karolina Schiedlova, Tereza Mihalikova**

The United States have enviable depth with eight players inside the top 50 for singles. Given the shorter format, doubles is all the more crucial to get right, which is how Mattek-Sands gets a gig. She teams up with Kenin on the actual WTA Tour so no doubt that is something the US will look to exploit, while you can simply not leave out Williams from the team. In this simulation, Riske has been chosen over Madison Keys due to being in much better form, and would give Kenin a chop out in the singles without losing too much in quality. Spain managed to win through to these Finals without the help of Grand Slam winner Muguruza, but expect her to return and have a big influence in what could be a repeat of the Australian Open final against Kenin. Suarez Navarro is on her farewell tour and will hope to go out with a bang, while the doubles makes sense for Sorribes Tormo and Garcia Perez to team up as they are regular WTA Tour doubles partners, and both ranked inside the top 75 in the world for the format. Slovakia will be heavy underdogs in the group despite the top 10 ranking, simply because their top singles player in Kuzmova is lower ranked than the top three in the other sides. They will blood Mihalikova through the doubles at just 21-years-old and the second highest doubles player as a positive.

GROUP D PREVIEW:

[4] Czech Republic: Karolina Pliskova, Petra Kvitova, Barbora Krejcikova**, Katerina Siniakova**
[6] Germany: Angelique Kerber, Julia Goerges, Laura Siegemund**, Anna-Lena Friedsam**
[11] Switzerland: Belinda Bencic**, Jil Teichmann, Viktorija Golubic**, Leonie Kung

Czech Republic deserve to start favourites for the overall title given at full strength they have Grand Slam winners galore. Pliskova and Kvitova is as good as the American combination, while the doubles of Krejcikova and Siniakova should beat just about anyone given they play on the WTA Tour together and are ranked inside the top 10. The German side will welcome back Kerber who provides great experience and could challenge the top players in the group, while Goerges is always a challenging player. Their doubles combination of Siegemund and Friedsam is inside the top 60, though not quite as cohesive as the Czech pairing as the Germans are part-time doubles players. The Swiss will largely depend on the impact Bencic has, who is as hot-and-cold as players come. But one huge benefit for the Swiss compared to the other sides is age – with three of the four Swiss talents 23 years or under. It was tough to pick the fourth player with Bencic and Teichmann the two clear choices inside the top 100 – Bencic inside the top 10 – while Golubic is the next best doubles option to team up with Bencic. In this simulation, teenager Kung has been handed a potential debut, with the 19-year-old having played some great tennis in 2020 thus far.

HOW THE SIMULATION WILL WORK:

Draft Central will look at a combination of the head-to-head of players, as well as factor in playing surface, form and past Fed Cup experience. Whilst it is not as enjoyable as the real thing, it can give a bit of an insight into who might lift the 2020 Fed Cup aloft when it does occur, likely late in the year.

OUR FIXTURE:

Monday, April 6: France vs. Hungary, Australia vs. Belgium
Tuesday, April 7: USA vs. Slovakia, Czech Republic vs. Switzerland
Wednesday, April 8: Russia vs. Hungary, Belarus vs. Belgium
Thursday, April 9: Spain vs. Slovakia, Germany vs. Switzerland
Friday, April 10: France vs. Russia, Australia vs. Belarus
Saturday, April 11: USA vs. Spain, Czech Republic vs. Germany
Sunday, April 12: Fed Cup Semi-Finals
Monday, April 13: Fed Cup Final

ATP/WTA Tour nation analysis: Papua New Guinea

WITH all the ATP Tour and WTA Tour tournaments on hiatus for the time being, Draft Central will take a look at various nations across the globe and analyse how the top players from that nation are performing. Our next nation is Papua New Guinea.

Top ATP player: Nil.

Top WTA player: Abigail Tere-Apisah
Rank: 377th (as of March 16, 2020)
Age: 27
Points: 123
Tournaments Played: 12

The only registered player on the WTA or ATP Tour is Abigail Tere-Apisah who is ranked inside the top 400. She might not be a familiar name, but in her last tournament completed, stunned number one seed and former top 100 player, Arina Rodionova in Perth 6-4 6-0. It was a remarkable win and her effort to reach the quarter finals before falling to Frenchwoman Irina Ramialison saw her rise up 54 ranking spots.

Tere-Apisah reached the semi-finals in the previous Perth ITF25 event, where she eventually went down to Australian Destanee Aiava, but had knocked off second seed Brit, Naiktha Bains in straight sets along the way. Teaming up with New Zealander, Paige Mary Hourigan in the doubles, she reached the final of the most recent Perth event before going down in three tight sets. It was the second final she had made in the format after reaching the ITF25k final with Australian Alicia Smith before losing in straight sets.

Last year was a solid year for Tere-Apisah who won an ITF25k event in Singapore, defeating top seed Russian Valeria Savinykh there. While she has stuck to the ITF Tour, the Papua New Guinean has shown an ability to beat top 100 quality players such as Rodionova along the journey.

Other notable Papua New Guinea WTA players: Nil.

Summary:

With a career prizemoney of $55,261 USD in singles, Tere-Apisah has not played in the big money tournaments, but has been going around the ITF circuit notching up some impressive wins. She is ranked inside the top 400 for both singles and doubles, and to be the only player from her nation on tour is a special feat in itself.

ATP/WTA Tour nation analysis: New Zealand

WITH all the ATP Tour and WTA Tour tournaments on hiatus for the time being, Draft Central will take a look at various nations across the globe and analyse how the top players from that nation are performing. Our next nation is New Zealand.

Top ATP player: Ajeet Raj
Rank: 917th (as of March 9, 2020)
Age: 21
Points: 13
Tournaments Played: 18

The 21-year-old is currently the top ranked singles player in the nation, with a singles ranking of 917th, and a doubles ranking of a slightly higher 833rd. He has a considerably higher career-high ranking of 694th in the world for singles, but has only played the three ATP Tour matches in the format over his career, and just the one this year. That was a loss in the Davis Cup Group 1 clash between New Zealand and Venezuela where he went down in three sets to Luis David Martinez after a strong start, 5-7 6-4 6-2.

With his three previous tournaments coming in Cancun, Mexico at the M15 level, he had made the trip from his home nation over the summer where he took place in the ASB Classic in Auckland. While one would think the top ranked player would earn a main draw wildcard, Raj had to fight his way through qualifying, but unfortunately drew world number 86, Thiago Monteiro in the first round and was knocked out 6-4 6-2 in the process.

Having only been touring three years, Raj is yet to compete in Europe. He won his maiden – and only – ITF Tour tournament back in October 2018, when he broke through in Hua Hin, Thailand in an F6 event. Yet to match it against the top players, Raj has a long way to go but has time on his side.

Other notable New Zealand ATP players: Rhett Purcell (#923), Finn Tearney (eq. 1019th)

Top WTA player: Paige Mary Hourigan
Rank: 442nd (as of March 9, 2020)
Age: 23
Points: 93
Tournaments Played: 15

New Zealand has four players that are either inside the top 1000 or on the verge of breaking into the top 1000, led by Paige Mary Hourigan who is safely inside the top 500. The 23-year-old has played 15 tournaments in the past 12 months and has been able to get around the ITF circuit, though her 2020 Australian experience has not been great, losing in the first round three consecutive times after winning through qualifying in Burnie with a victory over local hope, Zara Brankovic 12-10 in the third. Hourigan earned a wildcard in Auckland for the ASB Classic, but unfortunately copped fifth seed, Caroline Wozniacki who showed no mercy on her way to a 6-1 6-0 win in what would be the Danish Grand Slam winner’s penultimate tournament.

Hourigan won an ITF15K event in Cancun last year, and made a couple of semi-finals along the way. But her best work has come in doubles, where she reached the final in Perth at the most recent completed event with partner, Abigail Tere-Apisah. Tere-Apisah is a Papua New Guinea player who most notably stunned Australian, Arina Rodionova 6-4 6-0 in the Round of 16 at the Perth ITF25 event. Hourigan has also partnered up with Australian, Destanee Aiava in Burnie where they made a semi-final, and former top five singles player, Sara Errani in Auckland where the pair unfortunately bombed out in the first round.

Keeping in mind that Hourigan is still 23, she is touring well across the hard court circuit and could be one that becomes a strong doubles fixture on the WTA Tour, or increases her singles load year-by-year going into the future.

Other notable New Zealand WTA players: Emily Fanning (#590), Erin Routliffe (#773), Valentina Ivanov (#1008)

Summary:

New Zealand is not known for an abundance of tennis stars, but there are a couple of young guns filtering through, and enough to suggest that Davis Cup and Fed Cup squads could maintain a solid overall ranking, though are still someway off the world group just yet.

Five WTA players to watch: Young guns outside the top 30

AFTER naming five ATP Tour players to watch yesterday, we have thrown up five names – all teenagers – who are currently on the WTA Tour and making waves. Whilst one of these players is universally recognised, the others deserve the same plaudits with these guns to no doubt become household names in the coming years.

Iga Swiatek (Poland)

Barring a disappointing Round of 32 loss to Svetlana Kuznetsova, the teenage Pole has been in good form this year – just ask Donna Vekic. Swiatek has bundled the Croatian out twice already this year in major events at the Australian Open and Doha, both in straight sets. Unlike some of the others on this list, Swiatek has not played a heap of tennis this year, but sits at a 5-2 record in 2020, with her other loss coming at the hands of an in-form Anett Kontaveit at Melbourne Park – who Swiatek took a set off and pushed all the way in a 6-7 7-5 7-5 loss. Now sitting inside the top 50 for the first time, the next step will be to make the Round of 16 finish at Melbourne Park a norm for all Grand Slams, having already done so last year on debut at Roland Garros. Still learning the ropes, Swiatek is remarkably strong on return, winning 35.4 per cent of her return games, and more than 50 per cent of her opponents’ second serve points. She converts 70.6 per cent of her service games and is a bright young talent even if she does not come with the plaudits of Coco Gauff.

Coco Gauff (United States)

How could the young star who celebrates her 16th birthday tomorrow not be on the list? Her Australian Open run which included knocking off reigning champion Naomi Osaka was memorable, but she is still a raw talent who can float in and out of matches. When she is on, she can match it with the best in the world, but she can also overcook shots and opponents are testing out her back with piercing, deep slice that has troubled her at times. By turning 16, Gauff no longer has the same restrictions on her to play senior events, and if the Australian Open is anything to go by, then the fans want to see her more and more. She was blown away in the final set against eventual Australian Open winner, Sofia Kenin in the Round of 16 at Melbourne Park, but showed she could match it with her and looks a natural on hard court. The fact that in the three main draw Grand Slams she has played, she has already made two Round of 16s and a Round of 32 is credit to her level-headedness and ability to work under pressure. Having remarkably won a title at Linz after being a lucky loser and somehow fighting back to take it out, showed how she is able to shake off poor stints of form and find her best again.

Anastasia Potapova (Russia)

About to turn 19 at the end of the month, Potapova has been steadily improving and whilst she has slipped from her career high ranking of 64th last July to 84th as it currently stands, a breakout year is beckoning. Aside from a disappointing loss to Arina Rodionova at Adelaide in qualifying, Potapova has had tough draws and only lost the games you would expect her to lose. She copped Serena Williams in the first round at Melbourne Park, made it to a quarterfinal against reigning champion, Kiki Bertens at St Petersburg, lost out to in-form Leylah Fernandez in Acapulco who reached the final, then suffered defeat in Monterrey 9-7 in the third set tiebreaker against world number 16, Johanna Konta. Whilst she has not had a win against a top 50 player this year – her best was a straight sets triumph over the difficult Alja Tomljanovic, Potapova is getting closer to some of those top players to suggest she is on the verge of tipping the scales in her favour. She is yet to make it past a second round at a Grand Slam, but has won 39 per cent of her return games showing she is good around the court. Potapova could be more potent on serve though, winning just 62.6 per cent of her service games which leaves her open to being broken. Her first serve percentage of 52.6 is also quite poor, though that will come with experience. It is harder to develop the return aspect of the game and she has that, so building serving consistency will come with practice and time.

Wang Xiyu (CHN)

No doubt mainstream media might not have caught onto this teenage prodigy yet, but the 18-year-old who turns 19 just a few days before Potapova, has plenty of punch and has been cruising through the lower tournaments well. Currently ranked 107th in the world, expect her to crack into the top 100 with a good year. She already has wins over compatriots Wang Yafan and Zhu Lin (both seeded at Acapulco) as well as former top five player, Sara Errani in the same tournament as she reached the semi-final before going down to eventual winner Heather Watson. Her best win came in Thailand where she stunned second favourite, Petra Martic 6-3 6-4, and reached a quarter final before losing to fifth seed, Magda Linette in three sets from a set up. With losses to players outside the top 300 also either side of these tournaments her inconsistency is a bit of a concern, but that will come with experience. The noticeable different between Xiyu and a lot of other teenagers is her dominance on serve, where despite only having a 61.7 per cent serving efficiency, she winnings 74.7 per cent of her service games. She also wins a healthy 37.8 per cent of her return games, so has a really solid all-round performance. With almost five aces per game on average, Xiyu can pull out bigger serves if needed and is that tricky left-hander that many opponents struggle against. Effectively sitting at a career-high ranking currently, the goal would be for Xiyu to gain automatic entry into the Grand Slams from this point on.

Leylah Fernandez (CAN)

All the talk from North America is about Gauff, and while the recognition is deserved, Fernandez could well start earning plaudits of the same nature soon. Having turned 17 later in the year, Fernandez is small (163cm) but packs a real punch and is one of the most in-form players this season. Like any player on the WTA Tour, Fernandez would have been disappointed with the cancellation of Indian Wells, where she could have continued her form and potentially earned a wildcard entry and bolstered herself up to beyond her career-high current ranking of 118th. Keeping in mind at year’s end last year she was ranked 209th, and floating in the 300s and 400s over the past couple of seasons, she has well and truly broken onto the scene now. Fernandez might have lost to an in-form Lauren Davis at the Australian Open, but the tennis world would have taken note of her straight sets victory over Belinda Bencic in the Fed Cup, and then moving up 64 places in the world with a run from qualifying to the Mexico Open final in Acapulco. Aside from an admirable three-set loss to Watson in the final, she plowed through three top 100 players in straight sets. In case anyone thought that was a fluke, Fernandez backed up with a terrific win over Sloane Stephens at Monterrey the next week, before losing in a tight two-set loss to number one seed and eventual winner, Elina Svitolina in the quarter finals. If Fernandez can continue her form once the coronavirus tournament ban is lifted, then watch out because she could be the next big thing and a key part of the North American resurgence.

Australian Open: Women’s Day 4 review – Seeds predominantly advance in more predictable day

ALL the top 10 seeds in the women’s side of the draw moved through to the third round of action, with some potential fourth round matchups between past and potential future Grand Slam winners still a chance.

Swiss star, Belinda Bencic strolled into the third round with a straight sets win over Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko. Both players are ones to watch over the next decade on the WTA Tour, but on this occasion it was the sixth seed who made her way through to the Round of 32 courtesy of a 7-5 7-5 victory. It took an hour and 41 minutes, but Bencic was ruthless, breaking seven times from eight opportunities and hit 16 winners throughout. She weathered the barrage of winners from Ostapenko (36), and managed to take advantage of the 22-year-old’s serve games, winning 42 per cent of her receiving points.

Joining Bencic in the third round was 28th seed Estonian, Anett Kontaveit who had to win in three sets against a determined Sara Sorribes Tormo. The Estonian won 6-2 4-6 6-1, in a game which statistically should have been won a lot easier. Kontaveit hit a mind-boggling 43 aces to just four, and dominated all the serving statistics. Sorribes Tormo won four breaks for the match, and a crucial one in the second set to ensure a deciding set, though was blown away either side of the middle contest.

Earlier in the day, 19th seed Croatian Donna Vekic moved through to the third round, her best ever result at Melbourne Park after seven-straight first and second round exits. Her next opponent is Poland’s Iga Swiatek who ended Carla Suarez Navarro‘s Australian Open career, with the 2020 retiree in her last Grand Slam Down Under. Swiatek won 6-3 7-5 to move through to the Round of 32, serving eight aces and hitting 33 winners to control play, while winning 45 per cent of her receiving points. Suarez Navarro knows how to reach the second week of the Open, but her solid career ended with the straight sets loss.

[6] B. Bencic (SUI) defeated J. Ostapenko (LAT) 7-5 7-5
[28] A. Kontaveit (EST) defeated S. Sorribes Tormo (ESP) 6-2 4-6 6-1
[19] D. Vekic (CRO) defeated A. Cornet (FRA) 6-4 6-2
I. Swiatek (POL) defeated C. Suarez Navarro (ESP) 6-3 7-5

Belgium’s 16th seed Elise Mertens bulldozed her way to the third round with a 6-4 6-0 victory over Great Britain’s Heather Watson. It was a statement win for Mertens against an opponent who had been in good recent form this year, but was no match for the clever Mertens. The Belgian hit 17 winners and only 11 unforced errors as she broke six times to one, and nullified her opponents’ serve with 60 per cent of the receiving points. It was so one-sided that Watson only won a total of 26 points for the match, including eight in the second set.

Mertens now takes on American Catherine Bellis who bundled out 20th seed, Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic. The straight sets win took 83 minutes as Bellis broke three times to one in a performance that did enough to move through to the Round of 32. She won 70 per cent of her first serve points and was more conservative with her shots, hitting 12 winners and 18 unforced errors, while Muchova recorded 24 and 31. The 20th seed dominated at the net with a 75 per cent success rate, but only won 35 per cent of points off her second serve which proved costly.

Just as impressive in victory was fourth seed Romanian, Simona Halep who ran out a 6-2 6-4 winner over Great Britain’s Heather Dart. The experienced Grand Slam winner was too strong for the 23-year-old qualifier, winning 6-2 6-4 in an hour and 17 minutes. Halep only hit the 14 winners but had 11 less unforced errors (23-34) and won 47 per cent of her receiving points. The fourth seed is one of the tournament favourites for good reason and now she takes on Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva.

Putintseva defeated in-form 26th American seed, Danielle Collins 6-4 2-6 7-5 in a tight contest, with the world number 38 winning in two hours and 36 minutes. A crucial break in the eleventh game of the deciding set was the difference, having just been broken herself. The 25-year-old was consistent in her win, with just 19 winners but only 18 unforced errors compared to 48 and 57 from the hard-hitting American. Both players broke four times, but struggled with their second serve, and in fact it was Collins who impressed more on her serve, winning 75 per cent of her first serves, but Putintseva won two thirds of Collins’ second serves in a convincing win to book a Round of 32 spot.

[16] E. Mertens (BEL) defeated H. Watson (GBR) 6-3 6-0
C. Bellis (USA) defeated [20] K. Muchova (CZE) 6-4 6-4
Y. Putintseva (KAZ) defeated [26] D. Collins (USA) 6-4 2-6 7-5
[4] S. Halep (ROU) defeated [Q] H. Dart (GBR) 6-2 6-4

Grand Slam winner, Garbine Muguruza kept her Australian Open title dream alive with a three-set win over Australian number two, Ajla Tomljanovic. She won 6-3 3-6 6-3 in a two-hour and 21-minute battle that saw momentum see-saw at different points in the match. Both players had their fair share of breaks with Muguruza slightly ahead (four to three). The Spaniard was stronger at the net with an 86 per cent success rate, and also hit 34 winners to 24, while winning 70 per cent of her first serve points to set up a ripping third round clash with fifth seed, Elina Svitolina.

The Ukrainian won against American Lauren Davis in straight sets as expected, but Davis threw up a huge challenge in the second, only narrowly going down 8-6 in the tiebreaker. She forced the second set tiebreaker after being 6-2 6-5 down, but broke her top five opponent, and saved a match point with a nice winner, but Svitolina would take her second chance not long after to win 6-2 7-6. Throughout the match the Ukrainian served nine aces and hit 31 winners, successfully negotiating the net points with a 74 per cent success rate. She now faces Muguruza with the hope of improving her second serve, winning just eight from a possible 20 points from it in the Round 2 match.

Ninth seed Kiki Bertens overcame a second set challenge from Australian wildcard, Arina Rodionova to win her way through to the next round, 6-3 7-5. The Dutch star was crucial on her return games, winning 49 per cent of her receiving points, as she hit 25 winners to her opponents’ eight. Rodionova broke three times, but Bertens managed to double that, winning a crucial break in the final game of the match to avoid going to a second set tiebreaker.

The next opponent for Bertens is Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas who continued her superb run at the Open with a three-set win over Russian youngster, Anna Blinkova. Diyas lost the first set but came back to post a 4-6 6-3 6-4 victory in two hours and 13 minutes. She hit nine less winners (27-36) but had 16 less unforced errors (37-53). She broke a massive nine times, but will want to be stronger on her serve, only winning 54 and 35 per cent of her first and second serve points which will be an area of improvement against the world number 10.

[5] E. Svitolina (UKR) defeated L. Davis (USA) 6-2 7-6
G. Muguruza (ESP) defeated A. Tomljanovic (AUS) 6-3 3-6 6-3
Z. Diyas (KAZ) defeated A. Blinkova (RUS) 4-6 6-3 6-4
[9] K. Bertens defeated [WC] A. Rodionova (AUS) 6-3 7-5

One of the tournament title contenders breezed through to the Round of 32, with second seed Karolina Pliskova dismissing German Laura Siegemund in straight sets. The 6-3 6-3 triumph on Rod Laver Arena took just an hour and 26 minutes as she hit 22 winners to 20, but had nine less unforced errors in the match. She was stronger on-serve with 66 and 65 per cent winning success on her first and second serves compared to Siegemund’s 56 and 44 per cent respectively.

Pliskova now faces 30th seed Russian, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova who defeated American, Taylor Townsend in two tight sets, 7-5 7-6. The Russian powered her way to a total of 45 winners and only 32 unforced errors, breaking three times but from 14 opportunities. Townsend battled to hold her serve time and time again to force the second serve tiebreaker, but was blown away in that tiebreaker, 7-1. Pavlyuchenkova was a lot stronger on her serve, still broken twice but won 70 per cent of her first serve points.

Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber rolled on in the 2020 Australian Open with a standard 6-3 6-2 victory over Priscilla Hon. The workhorse German showed a never-say-die attitude even when in front, trailing 0-40 in the final game of the match, only to come back and break to book a spot in the third round potentially only one game earlier. It should hold her in good stead for the rest of the tournament, as will her consistency with just 11 unforced errors for the match, and winning 58 per cent of her receiving points.

Italian 102nd ranked Camila Giorgi toppled Grand Slam winner, Svetlana Kuznetsova in surprisingly easy fashion, downing the Russian 6-3 6-1 in 63 minutes of play. The Italian booked her spot in the Round of 32 against another Grand Slam winner in Kerber after hitting 27 winners for only 14 unforced errors. She also won 50 per cent of the receiving points and dropped just 14 points on-serve. Broken once, she managed to break the veteran five times during the course of the match and was prolific when approaching the net for an 80 per cent success rate.

C. Giorgi (ITA) defeated S. Kuznetsova (RUS) 6-3 6-1
[17] A. Kerber (GER) defeated [WC] P. Hon (AUS) 6-3 6-2
[30] A. Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) defeated T. Townsend (USA) 7-5 7-6
[2] K. Pliskova (CZE) defeated L. Siegemund (GER) 6-3 6-3

Australian Open: Women’s Day 2 review – Sabalenka, Anisimova out as experience wins tight ones

A COUPLE of massive upsets to completed Round 1 of the Australian Open women’s draw, with four seeds bundled out of contention, including a couple of future stars.

Sixth seed Belinda Bencic overturned recent form against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova around in a straight sets win, 6-3 7-5. Bencic and Schmiedlova both hit 25 winners, but the Swiss young gun was more economical with less unforced errors and a greater proficiency at the net. The Slovakian did well on serve percentage, but could not capitalise with points on the board, only winning 59 per cent of her first serves.

A fellow 22-year-old has earned the right to face Bencic, with Latvian Jelena Ostapenko getting past Liudmila Samsonova, 6-1 6-4. Ostapanko produced 11 aces and won 80 per cent off her first serve, also producing 27 winners en-route to her comfortable win. She broke on all three of her opportunities, while saving the five created by Samsonova. The Slovakian bowed out on the back of not being able to generate enough winners despite creating break point opportunities.

In the other two games completed on Day 2, 19th seed Donna Vekic progressed through to the second round after defeating former world number one, Maria Sharapova in straight sets. The Croatian 19th seed will now take on French veteran, Alize Cornet in the second round following a come-from-behind victory. Cornet lost the first set 7-5, before smashing her opponent, Romanian qualifier Monica Niculescu 5-7 6-1 6-0. The Frenchwoman hit 38 winners in the match and completely nullified her opponent, restricting the Romanian to just 19 points after the first set in a one-sided affair.

Earlier today, Anett Kontaveit downed Australian wildcard hope Astra Sharma in a 6-0 6-2 rout in just 59 minutes of action. Kontaveit put the foot down from the start and the 28th seed Estonian never let up, hitting nine winners and breaking six times on her way to a huge win. Sharma broke once herself, but could only win the two games for the match in a quick Round 1 exit.

In three one-sided sets, Sara Sorribes Tormo was better for longer in her two-hour win over Veronika Kudermetova. The 23-year-old world number 90 was too good for the 22-year-old top 50 player after the first set, allowing the Russian to make countless errors, including 67 unforced ones throughout the contest. Sorribes Tormo won 46 per cent of her receiving points, and while she only hit 11 winners, had a more manageable 24 unforced errors. She advances through to meet Kontaveit in the next round.

Poland’s Iga Swiatek also advanced through early on Day 3, defeating Hungarian Timea Babos in a smooth 6-3 6-2 win. Swiatek was difficult to penetrate on serve with an 84 per cent first serve winning record, as well as an impressive 65 per cent on her second serve. Making the most of each break point opportunity, the 18-year-old broke three times and hit 28 winners on her way to an eye-opening win that could announce herself in the tournament.

Awaiting Swiatek in the next round is Spanish veteran Carla Suarez Navarro who downed 11th seed, Aryna Sabalenka, 7-6 7-6 in just over two hours. Despite Sabalenka having a set point in the second, a couple of wild unforced errors, and the consistency of the Spaniard now in her farewell tour – to retire at year’s end – cost the Belarusian. Sabalenka hit more winners (32-18) but also produced a stack more unforced errors (58-36) with her return of serve the worst culprit given a tournament-high 17 return unforced errors a real issue for the up-and-comer.

[6] B. Bencic (SUI) defeated A. Schmiedlova (SVK) 6-3 7-5
J. Ostapenko (LAT) defeated [Q] L. Samsonova (RUS) 6-1 6-4
S. Sorribes Tormo (ESP) defeated V. Kudermetova (RUS) 2-6 6-1 6-1
[28] A. Kontaveit (EST) defeated [WC] A. Sharma (AUS) 6-0 6-2
[19] D. Vekic (CRO) defeated [WC] M. Sharapova (RUS) 6-3 6-4
A. Cornet (FRA) defeated [Q] M. Niculescu (ROU) 5-7 6-1 6-0
I. Swiatek (POL) defeated T. Babos (HUN) 6-3 6-2
C. Suarez Navarro (ESP) defeated [11] A. Sabalenka (BLR) 7-6 7-6

World number four, Simona Halep overcame a tight first set with the dangerous Jennifer Brady to defeat the American, 7-6 6-1. Halep broke five times to two and finished with a serving efficiency of 78 per cent. She was just that bit cleaner when it counted, hitting 20 winners and 23 unforced errors to 24 and 35 for her opponent respectively. Halep takes on British qualifier, Heather Dart in the next round.

Dart was forced to come from behind after losing the first set 6-2 to Japan’s Misaki Doi. The British 173rd ranked 23-year-old settled after the first set to record a 2-6 6-4 7-6 victory, claiming the super tiebreak 10-6. The game was far from the most clinical, with the pair producing a combined 68 winners but 110 unforced errors. Both players were great at the net, but struggled to maintain ascendancy on serve, with just over half of the points won by the server.

In-form American, Danielle Collins continued her strong 2020 season thus far with a three-set win over Russian, Vitalia Diatchenko. In just over two hours, Collins triumphed 6-1 3-6 6-4 to progress through to the second round. She hit 30 winners and controlled her serve with a 68 per cent first serve winning ratio, while breaking six times. Diatchenko only broke the four times and while she was solid across the board, just lacked the extra touch of class.

Yulia Putinseva advanced into the Round of 64 thanks to a comfortable 6-1 6-3 victory over Chinese Taipei’s Su Wei Hsieh. In a match that lasted an hour and 18 minutes, Putinseva was conservative with her approach given her 11 winners and 12 unforced errors, while her opponent only hit one more winner but an additional 16 unforced errors. The Kazakhstani world number 38 won half of her receiving points and made the most of her second serve with an 85 per cent success rate. She also broke five times to one which was the crucial factor in the Round 1 win.

It took until a 10-7 score in the super tiebreaker, but 20th seed Karolina Muchova made her way through to the second round to face American Catherine Bellis. Muchova won 6-3 2-6 7-6 against Belgian, Kirsten Flipkens to book a spot in the Round of 64. It was a loose game from Muchova who hit an impressive 44 winners, but also produced 60 unforced errors – 13 coming off the return. She was strong upon her return though, winning 44 per cent of her receiving points and broke five times, but was broken five times herself and will want to step it up given a potential third round matchup with Elise Mertens looms.

Bellis raced past German, Tatjana Maria in just 52 minutes with a 6-0 6-2 belting on Court 14. Bellis served at a 73 per cent efficiency, winning 70 per cent of her first serve points and making the most of all five break point opportunities. She hit only 10 unforced errors for the match along with 22 winners, and showed proficiency both at the net and baseline, confident she can topple the 20th seed next round.

In-form Brit, Heather Watson beat out Kristyna Pliskova in a come-from-behind win on Court 12 today. In just under two hours, Watson won 4-6 6-3 6-1 with an elite 93 per cent net points record, as well as nine aces and 38 winners. She won 79 per cent of her first serve points and broke five times to Pliskova’s twice, and controlled proceedings after the disappointing first set.

Now Watson has a tough ask against 16th seed Elise Mertens who was in ripping form today at Melbourne Park. The last first round match to be completed, Mertens brushed aside Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic in less than an hour, winning 6-2 6-0. Hitting 17 winners and only 13 unforced errors, the Belgian won 78 per cent of her first serve points and 52 per cent of her receiving points. Kovinic struggled against Merten’s flexibility, hitting just six winners and 27 unforced errors in the Round 1 match.

[16] E. Mertens (BEL) defeated D. Kovinic (MON) 6-2 6-0
H. Watson (GBR) defeated K. Pliskova (CZE) 4-6 6-3 6-1
C. Bellis (USA) defeated T. Maria (GER) 6-2 6-0
[20] K. Muchova (CZE) defeated K. Flipkens (BEL) 6-3 2-6 7-6
[26] D. Collins (USA) defeated V. Diatchenko (RUS) 6-1 3-6 6-4
Y. Putintseva (KAZ) defeated S. Hsieh (TAI) 6-1 6-3
[Q] H. Dart (GBR) defeated M. Doi (JPN) 2-6 6-4 7-6
[4] S. Halep (ROU) defeated J. Brady (USA) 7-6 6-1

Fifth seed Ukrainian, Elina Svitolina moved through to the second round of the Open with a 6-4 7-5 win over Great Britain’s Katie Boulter. Svitolina did what she had to do in what was a strong effort from Boulter, but the Ukrainian broke four times to her opponents’ twice. She also recorded impressive numbers with her service, all ahead of Boulter who opted for a run-and-gun strategy of 27 winners and 33 unforced errors while the world number five had 17 and 20 respectively.

Waiting for Svitolina in the next round is American Lauren Davis who knocked out Canadian qualifier, Leylah Fernandez 6-4 6-2. Fernandez had a good first serve percentage of 77, but could not convert that efficiency into points, winning just 52 per cent on serve, while her opponent won 63 per cent of her points. Davis hit 26 winners for the match, and won 11 of a possible 12 net points in a strong showing upon approach.

A Grand Slam winner put behind a sluggish start to race away in one of the more bizarre first round matches of the tournament. Garbine Muguruza was blown out of the water in the first set to American qualifier Shelby Rogers, before turning it around and only losing one game in the last two sets to win 0-6 6-1 6-0. Muguruza won just nine points in the opening set, while Rogers helped herself to 26, without dropping a point on her first serve, and winning 13 of a possible 18 on return. The next two sets saw Muguruza winning 60 points to 29 as she finished the match with 20 winners and a 71 per cent first serve point success rate. She will need to improve drastically if she is going to compete against the top players in the WTA Tour.

The Muguruza match would give Australia’s number two singles player, Ajla Tomljanovic confidence after she dismantled 31st seed, Anastasija Sevastova 6-1 6-1. In an hour and 17 minutes, 52nd ranked Tomljanovic hit 19 winners to 16, and only had 22 unforced errors to 30. The 26-year-old was dominant on her first serve, winning 80 per cent of her points and saving seven break point opportunities whilst capitalising on five of 13 for herself.

Another promising young seed dropped out of the Australian Open with 21st seeded American teenager, Amanda Anisimova losing in three sets to 73rd ranked Kazakhstani, Zarina Diyas. The underdog got up 6-3 4-6 6-3 to move through to the Round of 64 on the back of winning 48 per cent of her receiving points and controlling her play with 15 winners and only 19 unforced errors. Anisimova left nothing out on the court with a brutal 45 winners – including seven off the return – but also 62 unforced errors – eight of which were off the return.

Diyas confronts another young star in Anna Blinkova in the second round. The 21-year-old Russian defeated Italian, Jasmine Paolini 7-5 6-4 in an hour and 40 minutes. Hitting 34 winners and breaking six times, Blinkova was able to convert crucial points into game-winning opportunities in a match where she was not entirely clinical, but still did enough to get past Paolini. The 196th ranked Italian won less than half of her first serve points and only served with 53 per cent efficiency.

Arina Rodionova became the second Australian in the eighth to progress through to the Round of 64 following a come-from-behind win over Ukraine’s Kateryna Bondarenko. Rodionova earned a wildcard in the draw and worked hard from 6-3 down to post a 3-6 7-6 6-0 win, storming to victory in the end. After a heartbreaking tiebreak loss which with two points difference would have paved her way through to the next round, Bondarenko fell away in the decider, winning just seven points and hitting a mind-boggling 18 unforced errors as Rodionova took control with 24 points and just one unforced error.

The next round is a tough ask for Rodionova who meets ninth seed Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens in the second round. Bertens skipped past Romanian Irina Camelia Begu, 6-1 6-4 in an hour and 15 minutes and faces an eighth that has had a fair bit of upheaval. The world number 10 made the most of her break point opportunities, breaking four of a possible five times, while Begu could only manage once from the same amount of chances. Bertens hit 17 winners and won 78 per cent of her first serve points in a strong first outing before moving on for tomorrow’s clash.

[5] E. Svitolina (UKR) defeated K. Boulter (GBR) 6-4 7-5
L. Davis (USA) defeated [Q] L. Fernandez (CAN) 6-4 6-2
G. Muguruza (ESP) defeated [Q] S. Rogers (USA) 0-6 6-1 6-0
A. Tomljanovic (AUS) defeated [31] A. Sevastova (LAT) 6-1 6-1
Z. Diyas (KAZ) defeated [21] A. Anisimova (USA) 6-3 4-6 6-3
A. Blinkova (RUS) defeated J. Paolini (ITA) 7-5 6-4
[WC] A. Rodionova (AUS) defeated K. Bondarenko (UKR) 3-6 7-6 6-0
[9] K. Bertens (NED) defeated I. Begu (ROU) 6-1 6-4

Karolina Pliskova overcame challenging French rival, Kristina Mladenovic on Day 2 with a straight sets win to move the world number two into the second round. Pliskova posted a 6-1 7-5 victory over Mladenovic, hitting 20 winners to 14 and having an elite first serve success of 82 per cent. She broke her opponent four times during the match had had just the 17 unforced errors, overpowering her opponent on serve and only allowing Mladenovic 26 per cent of points in those games. She now moves through to face another straight sets winner in Germany’s Laura Siegemund.

Siegemund won in an hour and 25 minutes, downing American wildcard Coco Vandeweghe 6-1 6-4. In the match, Siegemund recorded a 70 per cent efficiency with her first serve and was particularly good at recovering points on her second serve with 63 per cent to her opponents’ 38 per cent. Vandeweghe was strong at the net with a 72 per cent success rate, but hit 28 unforced errors to Siegemund’s 16.

Fellow German, Angelique Kerber joined Siegemund in the Round of 64 with a 6-2 6-2 thumping of Italian qualifier, Elisabetta Cocciaretto. The Grand Slam winner was measured in her approach with just 17 winners to her opponents’ 32, but had just the 14 unforced errors as Cocciaretto sprayed 36 in the match. Her work both on serve (74 per cent first serve points won) and return (49 per cent of receiving points won) was first class and deserving of moving through to the next stage of the tournament.

Facing Kerber in the second round is Australian up-and-comer, Priscilla Hon who also broke through for her first victory at the Australian Open. The 21-year-old wildcard defeated Ukrainian, Kateryna Kozlova 6-3 6-4 by breaking seven times to five and winning more than half of her receiving points. Both players serves were not overly impressive with less than 50 per cent of points won on serve, but Hon produced 30 winners to 20, and looked more proactive on court.

The biggest upset of the eighth was two-time Grand Slam winner, Svetlana Kuznetsova defeating 15th seed, Marketa Vondrousova. Kuznetsova opened up the draw with the three-set win, triumphing 6-2 4-6 6-4 in an hour and 52 minutes. Kuznetsova used all her power to get home in the match, hitting 37 winners and approaching the net regularly to win 76 per cent of her points there. She did hit 36 unforced errors, but won 54 per cent of her receiving points to unsettle the Czech throughout the game. A total of nine breaks for the winner and seven for Vondrousova marked a game that was not the cleanest by serve.

In the last game of the eighth, Italian Camilla Giorgi got up in straight sets over German qualifier, Antonio Lottner 6-3 6-3. Taking just an hour and 20 minutes, Giorgi took all four break point opportunities in the match, whilst only being broken once. She had a 50-50 comparison with winners and unforced errors thanks to 21-apiece, but was far superior with her receiving points, winning 43 per cent compared to 29 per cent.

In one of the first matches on Day 3, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova booked a Round 2 spot with a straight sets win over Serbia’s Nina Stojanovic, 6-1 7-5. The 30th seed Russian took out the match in an hour and 12 minutes thanks to 17 winners and a high serving percentage, as well as five breaks. Stojanovic broke on both her break point opportunities, but hit 26 unforced errors to go with her 10 winners.

The other match completed on Day 3 of the tournament was the all-American affair which saw Taylor Townsend salute against Jessica Pegula, 6-4 7-6 in an hour and 49 minutes. After a tumultuous first set where the two broke five times, neither player could break through until Townsend got the mini-break in the tiebreaker to salute 7-5 to progress through to the Round of 64. She hit three more winners and four less unforced errors in a fairly even contest that showed the developing talent of American tennis.

S. Kuznetsova (RUS) defeated [15] M. Vondrousova (CZE) 6-2 4-6 6-4
C. Giorgi (ITA) defeated [Q] A. Lottner (GER) 6-3 6-3
[WC] P. Hon (AUS) defeated K. Kozlova (UKR) 6-3 6-4
[17] A. Kerber (GER) defeated [Q] E. Cocciaretto (ITA) 6-2 6-2
[30] A. Pavlyuchecnkova (RUS) defeated N. Stojanovic (SRB) 6-1 7-5
T. Townsend (USA) defeated J. Pegula (USA) 6-4 7-6
L. Siegemund (GER) defeated [WC] C. Vandeweghe (USA) 6-1 6-4
[2] K. Pliskova (CZE) defeated K. Mladenovic (FRA) 6-1 7-5