Australian Open 2017 - Week one highlights
The first major of the year has been full of drama and unexpected turns. Champions and big names who top the rankings on both ATP and WTA tours should ride through the first week on cruise control. But if you expected the unexpected this is exactly what you got this year in Melbourne.
Simona Halep became the first casualty in the women’s draw, losing to the unseeded Shelby Rogers in straight sets. Rogers, who had a great run at last year's French Open, blew a struggling Halep off court with her hard and precise hitting.
The biggest upset of the tournament, and of the year so far, was the defeat of the world no. 2 Novak Djokovic, who was sent packing by Denis Istomin, an unseeded player from Uzbekistan currently ranked 117th in the world. Istomin, played a match of his life, a match that lasted almost five hours and won in 5 sets: 7:6(8) 5:7 2:6 7:6(5) 6;4. Djokovic has struggled with his tennis since winning the French Open last year. In November he was beaten by Andy Murray at ATP Tour Finals in London. He looked as though he had regained some of his confidence when he beat Murray in Doha this month, but he hasn't been able to build on his win.
No. 3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska was defeated unexpectedly in her second round match. She lost to an inspired Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, currently world no.79, in straights sets and was blown off court by the flawless Croat who hit 33 winners compared to Radwanska’s 8. Mirjana has been able to build on her huge win over Aga and take the advantage of the draw. Her dream run continues...
Svetlana Kuznetsova had a deja vu moment on Friday when she was playing Jelena Jankovic. Up a set and leading 4:1 in the second, she found herself fighting all the way to 9:7 in the third to finally close a marathon 3h36 match. She outlasted Jankovic and looked stronger both mentally and physically in the decisive moments of the 3rd set. Sveta is no stranger to a 3 set battle. Last season she won 22 such encounters. She outlasted Jankovic and looked stronger both mentally and physically at the end of the match.
Karolina Pliskova is on a mission in Melbourne. Since reaching semis at the US Open last year she’s continued to play well. She won in Brisbane in the begging of the season an has cruised through her opening matches at the Open. In the 3rd round, however, she was given a huge wake up call by an inspired Jelena Ostapenko, who led her 5:2 in the 3rd set. Pliskova staged an extraordinary comeback to finally close the match 10:8. On one hand we saw a great resistance from the current Czech no. 1, on the other a tight Ostapenko, who missed a big opportunity, after failing to serve for the match twice.
When some struggle, others shine. Johanna Konta has looked to be very good form so far. She won Sydney the week leading to the AO and has not lost a set so far. Last year’s semi-finalist has looked relaxed and happy off court and it shows in her tennis on court.
Andy Murray is human after all. The world no. 1 has been playing unbelievable tennis for a few months now. Despite the loss in Doha he was considered a hot favourite to finally win the AO title after five failed attempts. But it was not meant to be. Andy’s run ended in a shock defeat to Misha Zverev. Zverev’s old school play and serve and volley tactics have earned him respect from John McEnroe himself who even called him his new favourite player.
Just when we though we’ve had enough upsets for one day another one came, this time in women’s draw. The big serving Coco Vandeweghe dispatched the defending champion and the no.1 seed Angelique Kerber in straight sets. Coco, whose attacking game style makes her prone to errors, made sure to stay consistent throughout the match. This is the first time she’s defeated the no. 1 ranked player.
Rafa looks as strong as ever. During his 4th round match against Gael Monfils he showed some vintage shots and a very consistent and strong play on both forehand and backhand side. Monfils fought back to take the match into the 4th set, from a 2 sets to love deficit but couldn't do enough to stop Nadal and eventually lost 3:6 3:6 6:4 4:6. Monfils had some brilliant shots of his own but wasn't consistent enough to truly challenge Nadal.
Roger Federer is BACK. The 6 months he took off to recover from injury has done wonders for him. The no. 17 seed has so far played some incredible tennis. In the third round his flawless performance made things extremely difficult for Tomas Berdych, who just couldn’t come up with any answers and quickly found himself on the losing end. Roger’s 6:2 6:2 6:4 clinical win takes us back to his glory years. And there was more to come. In the 4th round Roger met Kei Nishikori. In the begining things looked very bright for the Japanese player. He led 5:1 in the first set and looked to have everything under control. But as Roger settled into the match he staged a comeback. He couldn't do enough to save the first set. Nishikori won it on a tiebreak. Roger took the next two sets, and just as things were looking very good for him, Nishikori made a comeback of his own and pushed the match into a deciding set. Roger impressed again and earned his spot in the next round defeating Nishikori 6:7(4) 6:4 6:1 4:6 6:3.
“I think I'm playing better and better. Today over a long period of time, I had to be refocused and playing good tennis. I served exceptionally well tonight, which was key against Nishikori. I'm very pleased there. Rhythm from the baseline is there now,” Federer said.
World no. 2 Serena Williams has booked her spot in the QF by defeating a tricky Barbora Strycova. After winning her first 2 rounds very convincingly against tough opponents, former Top 10 players Belinda Bencic and Lucie Safarova, she dispatched her compatriot Nicole Gibbs in just over an hour. Against Strycova things looked different. Serena’s serve had an off day and she found herself broken 3 times in the first set. She struggled on serve but her return game proved to be a weapon too big for Strycova to handle. Serena managed to close the 1st set 7:5 and was serving for the match at 5:3 in the second when Strycova broke her again. She couldn't do enough to stop Serena from breaking her straight back and taking the match 7:5 6:4.
Stan is still the man. The Swiss has reached the quarterfinals again after dispatching Italian Andreas Seppi in three tiebreak sets. No player could take control of the match. Wawrinka tried all he could to break Seppi's resistance but the Italian hanged on. Wawrinka raised his level when he needed to and eventually took the match 7:6 7:6 7:6.
“I know that my level is there, that physically I'm feeling good. So most important is to win, to still be in the tournament. I'm really happy to make the quarterfinal again. It's a big result”, Wawrinka said.
The quarterfinals are now set:
#13 Venus—#24 Pavlyuchenkova
#9 Konta—#2 Serena
#4 Wawrinka—#12 Tsonga
#9 Nadal—#3 Raonic
#11 Goffin—#15 Dimitrov
To be continued...