Today was the day was the day that Sharapova returned to the match court after a 15-month anti-doping suspension. She was successful in her first match as she got past Roberta Vinci in straight sets and although I won’t be doing a full review of the match, I thought I should mention it. At all of the four tournaments, a solid 16 of the 20 seeds in action went through leaving them with 80% success rate.
In Barcelona, Roberto Bautista Agut got a great 6-1, 6-3 victory over another recognised clay-court player in Jan-Lennard Struff. These two were given a spot of Pista Rafael Nadal (the main court in Barcelona) but neither player was able to bring their peak tennis for the occasion. This is a good win for Bautista Agut as he has struggled to get through matches routinely recently and this will give him a lot of confidence for the rest of the week and clay court season. Stuff was NOT playing well in the first set, especially on his serve as he only got 7 points behind his serve, which is one of the lowest I have seen in a while on the men’s tour. Struff did have four break points on Bautista Agut in the first set but the Spaniard was able to save them all and Struff ended the set with the single service hold. Bautista Agut’s level dropped for the second set but he was still able to play at a high enough level to take the match. There were a lot of breaks in the second set with Bautista Agut only holding serve twice and Struff only holding serve once. In the end Bautista Agut broke for the victory but he will need to tighten up his game if he wants to get the better of the in-form Ramos-Vinolas in the next round.
(Couldn’t find a match point for this one)
In Stuttgart, our feature match of the day saw Anett Kontaveit get the biggest win of her career as she defeated top 10 player and reigning French Open champion Garbine Muguruza 2-6, 7-6(7-1), 6-1. Kontaveit remained at a good level the whole match and when Muguruza’s level dropped the Estonian pounced and swept up an easy third set. Muguruza came out playing really solid tennis in the first set as she dropped just 2 points behind her first serve. Kontaveit couldn’t do anything against Muguruza in that set and she didn’t even have a break point opportunity as the Spaniard finished the set with the double break. The second set was very high quality and neither playing was blinking as neither of them dropped serve once despite Kontaveit facing 6 break points. Muguruza tensed up for the breaker and Kontaveit really ran away with it, which was a disappointing way for such a tight set to end. In the final set Muguruza was hitting a lot more unforced errors as she seemed to lose control of the ball. Kontaveit broke her a total three times and didn’t face a break point in the decider as she ran away to take the match. She broke to love to get that final game and this will be a bad loss for Muguruza who will be looking for some decent results in the lead up to her title defence at Rolland Garros.
In Budapest, a very entertaining encounter saw Fernando Verdasco eventually overcome the home favourite Marton Fucsovics 7-6(8-6), 6-2. Fucsovics has been playing so well this whole tournament and he looked really good for the first set against Verdasco but in the end I think the occasion got to him. Verdasco was really solid off the backhand win the whole match and looked particularly strong in the opening set. Fucsovics had two set points in the first set tiebreaker after there were no breaks of serve in the set but that’s when he got nervous. He hit a couple of unforced errors and just like that the match flipped and the set went to Verdasco. Verdasco was a lot more dominant in the second set as he almost immediately went out to a 5-2 lead trying to serve out the match while Fucsovics was still upset after losing that heartbreaker first set. Fucsovics managed to get that one more break to please the home crowd but Verdasco broke straight after to get the win. I have Verdasco as my pick for the Budapest inaugural title and I am confident about that prediction with the way he’s playing right now.
(Can’t find any clips of Budapest)
In Budapest, second seed Timea Babos got her first victory of the season as she moved past Conny Perrin 6-3, 6-2 to reach the second round. Babos was on song for most of the match as she was hitting her forehand and backhand with gusto and was hitting all the right shots in all the right places. She was also really good on defence when Perrin started to push her back, which can be a weakness of Babos at times. Babos was shaky on serve the whole match, but especially in the first set. Perrin only held serve once but Babos was starting to get in to a service rhythm by the end of the opener. The Hungarian did serve out the set despite the troubles early on and her dominance improved for the second set. Babos went out to an early break in the second to lead 2-1 and she only faced another single break point from there before she closed our the match. This is a good win for Babos but she will want to get her serve firing from the start of her next couple of matches. Perrin has never been inside the top 100 so this would have been a good opportunity for her to see how well the top girls play every single day.