Today was the first day of main draw action for the WTA and even though none of the matches were really fantastic there were a lot of three-setters. It’s also set up some really good second round matches when the seeds come out to player on Friday.
The first match up on stadium saw Heather Watson and Nicole Gibbs face off. I think that Gibbs would have come out with a lot of nerves because she was defending fourth round points and she was very up and down in the first set. Watson was striking the ball very clean and hit some really good shots but in the end Gibbs managed to close out an inconsistent set from her to lead 6-4. Watson really blitzed through the second set as she raced to a 4-2 lead in under a half hour and from there Gibbs took her to duece twice but Watson managed to break the American and level the score 6-4, 2-6. From 2-2 in the third set Gibbs just started to fall away as Watson extended her lead and extended her lead. She ended up breaking Gibbs to take the match after a great match point which ended with a forehand winner to take the match 4-6, 6-2, 6-2. Watson will face Johanna Konta next in all Brit second round.
The in-form Cici Bellis and Kirsten Flipkens were next up on Stadium 1 and this was a very intriguing match with the dynamic in game styles and not knowing how Bellis would handle the pressure. Ellis started very well as she was playing aggressive tennis and went to the net a bit to get a break and lead 3-1. Flipkens went to level the score at 3-3, and then 4-4 but Bellis eventually got another break and closed out the opening set 6-4. Bellis really fell away in the second set and Flipkens just charged through it winning five straight games to take it 6-1. It looked like Bellis would run away with the third as she went up 3-0 with a break but from there it all just started to slip away for the young American. Flipkens got the break back and then after getting the match level to 4-4, broke Bellis before serving out a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 match. Flipkens now will try and get the win over Garbine Muguruza.
Next up was Monica Puig and Danielle Collins out on Stadium 1. Puig was playing really well and Collins just wasn’t able to keep up with that high intensity displayed from the top players. This is understandable for Collins because she would have a lot pressure to perform as a wildcard in her first WTA tour match outside the slams. Collins did have some points of brilliance where there was nothing Puig could do but the Olympic champion was to consistent. Puig took the first set 6-0 despite that she wasn’t serving that well. Collins managed to extend her points of brilliance enough in the second set but it was all vain as Puig still handled it comfortably and took the match 6-0, 6-2. Karolina Pliskova awaits Puig.
Kristyna Pliskova and Bethanie Mattek-Sands were the next to do battle snd the match ended up being quite hard to watch. Mattek-Sands had a lot of opportunities in the first set to get game points and games but she just wasn’t capitalising on ANY of them. Part of this was because Pliskova would fire down an ace but she threw away a lot of them with an error. If Mattek-Sands wants to keep producing good singles results and keep her singles ranking relatively high she is going to have to work on closing out the bigger points and dealing with nerves. Mattek-Sands took some more of those opportunities in the second set but Pliskova wasn’t troubled by it and her rock solid serve led her to the 6-0, 6-3 victory.
One of the most anticipated matches of the day happened out on Stadium 2 as Belinda Bencic got the win over Tsvetana Pironkova. I didn’t watch this one but I managed to catch bits of it. Bench looked like she was playing a really solid match and managed to fend off Pironkova, who wasn’t playing badly, very well. The first set looked like quite a tight affair with both players having their chances to put themselves in good positions but Bencic managed to win the set 6-4. Bencic looked really good in the final set because once she did gain that 3-0 lead there was no slip in level as we often see with other players but she managed to close it out dominantly and make the second round with the 6-4, 6-1 win. She will go on to face Kiki Bertens and that is a big opportunity for her to reach the third round.
The last match on Stadium 1 was over as soon as it started an the scoreline really shocked me. This was my feature match of the day between Rodina and McHale. McHale was hitting a lot of unforced errors and she was playing a really tactically poor match and sometimes she just set up a winner for Rodina. To be fair, Rodina played a fantastic match and she showed she deserved the lucky loser second chance position and I wouldn’t be sourced if she went further after this 6-1, 6-0 domination of McHale. This will be a tough loss to take for the American just because she was in front of her home crown and went in a favourite but it can also be taken as a massive learning curve and she can devise some better tactics. She has Caroline Garcia in the second round, which is winnable for her if she plays like she did today.
I was interested today hearing Angie Kerber and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s perspective on the Sharapova wildcard situation. Ferber described the whole thing of her return in Stuttgart messy, particularly because Sharapova isn’t able to play before Wednesday.and called it “a strange situation.” Kerber isn’t normally very vocal about issues with other players so I would be surprised if this wasn’t the general consensus in the locker room. Tsonga said he didn’t think that she should get a wildcard into the French Open because it would be like giving candy to a misbehaved child. I also liked seeing the players wish Petra Kvitova a happy birthday on the WTA website, I especially liked Svetlana Kuznetsova’s message.