Today was the first day that the seeds were in action for the WTA and it was the final day without mens seeds. All but two of the women’s seeds went through today which is surprising considering the depth of women’s tennis at the moment.
The first match on Stadium 1 was the highly anticipated battle of the Brits with Johanna Konta and Heather Watson facing off. There was a bit of uncertainty surrounding Konta after she had to pull out of Dubai with a foot injury but she looked really healthy and fit out there today. Watson made a really good start as she had opportunities to go up a break and was very good on serve but as Konta warmed into the match she gained more and more control over it. It was on serve till the pointy end of the first set and eventually Konta managed to hit through Watson to get a break before eventually serve out a 6-4 set. The second set was relatively the same but eventually Watson started to fall away gifting Konta a break before the higher ranked Brit took the match 6-4, 6-4. Despite losing this, it is a great achievement for Watson as she was able to stick with one of the top players for a whole match. Konta will now face Caroline Garcia as they both look to book a spot in the fourth round.
The men’s singles match on Stadium 1 was between Benoit Paire and Taylor Fritz. Paire took an injury time out after the only a few minutes but it appeared that he wasn’t even trying after he decided he wasn’t going to win the matchdue to injury. Despite the shenanigans of Paire, Fritz maintained a really high level throughout and held his nerve to close out the match quite easily. Fritz was on top from the beginning of the first set but when he went to serve out the first set there were some nerves and that let Paire get one of the breaks back but apart from that the American was rock solid to take a 6-3 set. The trend continued in the second set except this time Fritz didn’t react to the mental hurdle of serving out the match and he did it with upmost confidence. This makes him the first American to win on Stadium 1 of the tournament and set up a second round match with Marin Cilic.
Garbine Muguruza was in peak condition and playing stunning tennis today as she got a win over Kirsten Flipkens out on Stadium 1. She was almost unplayable at the start of the first set as she hit winner after winner and got back some unbelievable returns which led her to a 4-0 lead with a double break. From there Muguruza tightened up a little but and Flipkens wasn’t playing bad tennis so the Flipkens managed to get two service holds before Muguruza took the set 6-2 with relative ease. Muguruza got back in her rhythm at the start of the second set as she raced to a 5-0 lead. From here it looked like there was nothing anybody could have done against Mugurza but her level did drop again as she got nervous when trying to close it out. Flipkens played some really good games when Muguruza’s level dropped and she got two of her breaks back before Garbine eventually broke to take a 6-2, 6-3 match. Muguruza will now go on to face the American young gun Kayla Day in the third round.
Karolina Pliskova had to work really hard to get her first win of the tournament over Monica Puig, who was playing the same kind of tennis that won her the olympics at times of the match. Pliskova wasn’t playing her best tennis but she was still playing at a top 10 or 20 player level and Puig was bossing her around for parts of the match. In the first set, Pliskova wasn’t able to do anything against Puig as she couldn’t miss and hit winner after winner on the way to a 6-1 set over one of the best servers in the WTA. Pliskova managed to get in control of the second set as she got an early break and Puig wasn’t able to get back despite the abundance of forehand winners that she was striking throughout and the Czech took the set 6-4. Puig got control of the third set as she broke Pliskova’s serve and then gained a 3-0 lead but from their Pliskova’s survival instinct kicked in. Pliskova reeled off four straight games and then she got a break. Puig managed to gain one service game before Pliskova served out a 1-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory. The painful thing that Puig will have to deal with surrounding this loss is that she actually won more total points than Pliskova as the Puerto Rican won 90 points were as Pliskova only won 88. Pliskova will go on to face Irini-Camelia Begu in the next round.
Dominika Cibulkova was also a winner today as she managed to get past Jelena Ostapenko on Stadium 3. Neither of the women were playing near their best but, surprisingly, the energy was quite high within the crowd. Ostapenko was doing something during the match were she would start returning Cibulkova’s second serve up at the service line and then run backwards to the baseline squeaking on the surface as Cibulkova served. I believe this is a way of distracting her opponent and although this has stirred up some controversy but I think players should do whatever they need to do to win. There were a lot of breaks in the first set as Ostapenko went up a break three times but Cibulkova broke back immediately. Eventually from 3-3 Cibulkova managed to hold serve then get a break before Ostapenko held serve again and then the Slovak won the set 6-4. It was Ostapenko who started the second set the best as she went up 3-0 with a double break lead. The rest of the set was up and down as Cibulkova would get a break back and then Ostapenko would retake the break but eventually Ostapenko took the set 6-3. The final set was was quite a scrappy affair with quite a lot of service breaks but Cibulkova was the one who got some rhythm in the final set first and managed to get some service holds and that led her to taking the match 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Cibulkova will now face Kristyna Pliskova, who has been playing some stunning tennis so far this tournament.
Our feature match was quite an epic as Elina Svitolina continued her great match-win streak as she got past in the in-form Qiang Wang in an epic three-setter. Both girls were playing some of their best tennis apart from some of the errors Svitolina was making at the start of the first set. There was nothing separating these two at the start of the match as there were no breaks of serve until Wang broke to lead 5-3 before she served out the first set at 6-3. This would have injected a lot of nerves into Svitolina but she actually handled the pressure really well and fought back well in the second set. Svitolina raced out to a 3-0 lead with a break and from there neither of the two were able to break their opponents serve again in the second set. Svitolina kept setting up opportunities for herself in the third set as she first led 2-0, then broke to lead 4-3 and then she broke for 6-5 but Wang immediately broke back from all of those depicts. This meant that a third set tiebreaker was going to have to decide the match and from there Wang really cracked under the pressure and Svitolina took the win 3-6, 6-3, 7-7(7-3). Svitolina will try to extend her streak next as she faces Daria Gavrilova.
Other Match Results:
Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated Johanna Larsson 7-6(7-3) 6-4
Kiki Bertens defeated Belinda Bencic 6-2, 6-2
Timea Bacsinszky defeated Monica Niculescu 7-5, 6-2
Barbora Strycova defeated Sara Errani 6-4, 5-7, 6-2