WASHINGTON, January 17, 2018 (by Michael Dickens)
Of the many thrilling first-round upsets that dotted the first two days of the 2018 Australian Open, one that garnered a lot of attention – including mine – was unseeded Andrea Petkovic‘s defeat of No. 27 seed Petra Kvitova, 6-3, 4-6, 10-8. Arguably, it was Day 2’s best match.
When one considers that the 30-year-old, 98th-ranked German had lost seven consecutive matches against seeded players in Grand Slams, coupled with a first-round qualifying loss two weeks ago in a tune-up in Brisbane to World No. 178 Polina Monova – not to mention she’s been winless against the two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova since 2011 – well you get the picture. Petkovic’s chances of turning things around on Tuesday didn’t look exceptionally good. Especially, considering that she was 0-for-8 in break point chances won in the second set (and just 8-for-23 for the match).
However, the likable – and very quotable – Petkovic came through when the Czech, who was serving at 8-9, double faulted at match point. After battling Kvitova over the course of two hours and 52 minutes on Show Court 2, she garnered her first win over a Grand Slam champion since beating Garbiñe Muguruza in a WTA Doha quarterfinal two years ago. After her win, Petkovic opened up during her press conference.
“I had so many tough losses in the Grand Slams last year,” said Petkovic, who will face unseeded American Lauren Davis in Thursday’s second round. “So, after I had these match points I tried to stay in the moment. I knew if I got into the spiral of: ‘Oh my God, I had match points,’ I’d go crazy again.
“I focused so hard and it took all my will power. I think I’m still in that mindset. I didn’t even think about what I was supposed to do with the strokes or how I was going to serve. I just thought about not thinking.
“I didn’t feel anything. I just existed. I was so in the match. I didn’t even realize it was over. I have no feelings whatsoever about this – in a good way.”
News, notes and results:
• World No. 4 Elina Svitolina beat Katerina Siniakova in three sets in their last Grand Slam meeting at last year’s U.S. Open. … As Day 3 of this year’s AO got under way on Wednesday, the No. 3 seed Svitolina, who led the WTA with five titles last year, and the 49th-ranked Siniakova were first on court on Rod Laver Arena. Svitolina got off to a shaky start and lost the first set. Then, she rebounded nicely and won going away, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, for a place in the third round on Friday.
Afterward, in her post-match presser, Svitolina said: “I gave her the chance to dominate and play well. It was my mistake. Hopefully in the next round I will be more focused. Winning Brisbane and having a good 2017, it’s been great, but this is a grand slam and every opponent is tough.”
• Gilles Simon retired with an injury in the second set, down 6-2, 3-0 to Pablo Carreño Busta, who became the first man through to the third round.
• New star born? Maybe. Imagine being just a 15-year-old qualifier playing in your ninth professional tournament – and reaching the third round at the AO. Meet Marta Kostyuk of the Ukraine, the reigning Australian Open junior champion, whose singles ranking coming into the AO was 522nd. She looked poised and played well beyond her years in beating Australian wild card Olivia Rogowska, ranked 162nd, 6-3, 7-5. Fact: She’s the youngest since Martina Hingis in 1996 to go this deep at the AO. Next: Kostyuk will face her countrywoman Svitolina. “I’m happy, just happy. I made it through,” Kostyuk said after her big win on Wednesday.
• Kataryna Bondarenko, ranked 92nd, became the third Ukrainian woman to advance to the third round as she ousted No. 15 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 6-2, 6-3.
• Nobody saw this one coming: Belinda Bencic, ranked 98th, who came back strong from injury and upset 2017 AO finalist Venus Williams on Day 1, was stunned by 125th-ranked qualifier Luksika Kumkhum of Thailand, 6-1, 6-3, on Hisense Arena. It was the first time Kumkhum has reached the third round of a major.
What we’ve learned:
• On Tuesday, I came across an interesting story by Will Swanton online in The Australian (Australian.com.au) in which he wrote that defending Australian Open champion Roger Federer cherishes the letters he receives each year from tennis Hall of Famer Ken Rosewall. The Aussie great was 37 years old when he won the Australian Open in 1972. So, Federer, now 36, and looking to successfully defend his AO title – and playing, in the words of another Hall of Famer, John McEnroe, “like he’s 25” – can relate to Rosewall. He’s also an astute student of the history of the sport, too.
According to Swanton, Rosewall, “writes a heartfelt letter to Roger Federer at every Australian Open. Just a short note on a single slip of paper. He slides it into an envelope, puts Federer’s name on it in his neatest handwriting, walks to the locker room at Melbourne Park and politely leaves it with the doorman.”
What I learned from reading the article is this: Federer knows everything about what Rosewall achieved as a player and how he helped push the sport of tennis into the professional era, “how he did it with an old-fashioned elegance that Federer himself has brought to the modern era.”
Here’s what Federer had to say about Rosewall, now 83: “I think he’s a wonderful man. We don’t speak about him enough. I love that generation of players with Tony Roche, Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Roy Emerson. I know Ken’s a few years older, but I know he had a tremendous career.”
What they’re saying:
• ESPN analyst Darren Cahill on Roger Federer: “If you get a chance to watch a Roger Federer match, just watch his feet. Don’t watch the swing of the racket, don’t watch anything but Federer’s feet throughout the course of a point. Not only when he hits the ball, but his reaction afterwards. You’ll be amazed how active those feet are. They never stop. They are zig-zagging from behind the baseline, inside the baseline, going back to the baseline. They’re always active.”
• Andrea Petkovic following her upset of two-time Wimbledon champion and AO No. 27 seed Petra Kvitovic: “I’m going to try and stay like this and not get too euphoric. If it was the final, I’d be running naked around Melbourne Park probably and jumping into things. But it’s not, so I’m trying to keep the euphoria for later and stay focused for the next match.”
• More on Roger Federer from Tennis Channel analysts Jim Courier and Martina Navratilova: Courier – “Roger was able to test all of his shots (against Aljaz Bedene). He looked awfully good out there.” Navratilova – “There’s no reason why he can’t win it all here this year.”
• Juan Martin del Potro, after his first-round win over American Frances Tiafoe: “I think that people like my effort to come back and play tennis. I survive after three wrist surgeries and I was close to quitting. The atmosphere is unbelievable. You all make me feel so happy.”
• Up-and-coming Aussie Alex De Minaur, following his first-round loss to Tomas Berdych: “It’s just been crazy. Extremely proud of what I’ve been able to do the last couple of weeks. Even today, I try to base myself on leaving it out on court every time i step on it. That’s what I did. It was crazy to have all the support I’ve had, as well. I mean, playing on Hisense Arena in front of a packed crowd, it’s just something special. I’m just so thankful for that.”
ESPN analyst and tennis Hall of Famer John McEnroe on #NextGen ATP rising star Denis Shapovalov: “By the time he’s 20, he’s going to one of the top young players in the game. He plays with such speed and energy.”
What they’re tweeting:
• Christopher Clarey, New York Times tennis columnist (@christophclarey): 15 defeats in a row for (World No. 11 Kristina) Mladenovic, far too big a talent for that. Tennis remains the ultimate head game. Adds Eleanor Crooks, tennis correspondent for the Press Association in the U.K. (@EleanorcrooksPA): Crazy stat. Mladenovic is ranked higher now than she was when she started her losing run.
About the author
Michael Dickens is a Washington, D.C.-area freelance journalist who writes and blogs about tennis.