MELBOURNE, January 22, 2020 (by Sharada Rajogapalan)
It was an uneventful stroll in their Australian Open second-round matches for some women’s players at Melbourne Park on Wednesday. A few others did not have it all easily-sorted but still made it through to the next round. Some were not so lucky, though.
The least difficult of them all
Seven-time former champion Serena Williams from the United States had her problems with break-point conversions in her evening-session match against Tamara Zidansek. Yet, this did not stop the eighth seed from winning 6-3, 6-2 in an hour and 18 minutes against the Slovenian. This was Williams’ 87th win in the tournament, which she first played in 1998.
On-court, after her win, Williams acknowledged that her opponent had made it harder for her in spite of the one-sided seeming score. “It was a good match for me, she was a real good fighter and she didn’t just let me win. Everyone plays me like that though, so it’s nothing new. I was up 40-0 on both of her serves, so I was frustrated. I hit many errors and had to battle through my own internal problems,” she said.
This was Williams’ sixth match victory of 2020. Next up for her is China’s 27th seed Qiang Wang. Wang defeated France’s Fiona Ferro in their second-round meeting 6-1, 6-2. In the previous meeting between Williams and Wang, in the quarter-finals of the 2019 US Open, Williams came through in straight sets en route to reaching the final.
“Whenever I see Coco, we always still do our routine”
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 22, 2020
In the day session, the top-seed from Australia Ashleigh Barty faced a stiff challenge from the weather. Her opponent of the day, Slovenia’s Polona Hercog, mounted her own challenge towards the business end of the match by creating break point opportunities across Barty’s latter three service games. However, Barty outlasted both the weather and her rival, dropping just five games – for a 6-1, 6-4 win – in just 66 minutes.
Understandably, home crowd expectations have grown on Barty who is playing in her country as the top-ranked women’s singles player for the first time. And while it may not have started out as easy for Barty to deal with these expectations, she said she was able to accept it better with each match she played.
“I think you feel more comfortable every day. Every time you’re able to win a match, you have another opportunity to try and be that little bit better, to try to be that little bit more sharp and clean,” she said. “I felt like I started a lot better today, and then the second set, as well, was able to get out of some sticky service games towards the end of the set there.”
Barty will play 29th seed Elena Rybakina from Kazakhstan in the round-of-32. Rybakina enters the match with a 11-1 record this year. Her only loss came in the final of the Shenzhen International against Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova.
The more difficult ones
Former World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki’s farewell from the pro Tour looked imminent as she trailed 23rd seed Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine in both sets. However, the Dane decided to postpone her retirement some more by earning a comeback win 7-5, 7-5 in two hours and two minutes.
The charged atmosphere made Wozniacki tear-up. But after the emotional highs of the match had worn off, the 2018 champion here at Melbourne Park insinuated that the 19-year-old had opted for tried-and-tested gamesmanship by calling out for a trainer right before serving to stay in the match, in the 10th game of the final set.
“Obviously she tried to break my rhythm,” the 29-year-old said in her press conference. “And at 5-4 I don’t think there is anything wrong. She was running just fine. So that’s a trick that she’s done before, and I knew that it was coming. But I was just trying to stay focused.”
Wozniacki will play Tunisian Ons Jabeur in the third round. Jabeur defeated France’s Caroline Garcia 1-6, 6-2, 6-3. The Arab has now reached the third round in three of the four Majors (2017 French Open, 2018 US Open, and 2020 Melbourne Park).
Fifteen-year-old Coco Gauff made the most of the uphill climb she had in her match against Romania’s Sorana Cirstea. The American teen won 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 after two hours and six minutes of a riveting contest. Gauff’s heroics of the day included not only a comeback from a set down but also a return from a break down in the third set.
After levelling the final set scores at three-all, negating a break of serve that saw Cirstea build a 3-0 lead, Gauff won three consecutive games in the final set to set a re-appointment with third seed Naomi Osaka, following their 2019 US Open meeting.
That match, which the Japanese player won easily, was also a round-of-32 encounter. This time around, as quoted by Gauff herself, the youngster knows what to expect and how to manoeuvre around her slightly-older rival.
“I think I’ll be less nervous this time,” she said. “At the US Open I was nervous. It was my first time on (Arthur) Ashe. For sure I’ll be more confident because I’ve felt her ball before. We’re both familiar with each other’s games. She plays really aggressive. This time coming in I’m going to be more aggressive.”
Meanwhile, speaking of Osaka, the two-time major champion weathered a wobble of her own against China’s Saisai Zheng to come through 6-2, 6-4 in an hour and 80 minutes.
Aryna Sabalenka, the 11th seed from Belarus, was among the biggest names to go out of the tournament. Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro handed Sabalenka a 7-6(6), 7-6(6) defeat.
Germany’s Julia Goerges inflicted a similar fate upon 13th-seeded Croatian Petra Martic in their round-of-64 match. Goerges turned around an opening set deficit to claim a 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 victory.