When I first saw Yanina Wickmayer play--it was a few years ago in a Fed Cup match--I was impressed by the way she could pound the ball. I kept an eye on her, and I'm glad I did, because now, she's learning how to pound the ball with accuracy. Playing 12th seed Flavia Pennetta today in the second round of the Australian Open, Wickmayer looked like a woman on a mission. And the last half of that mission might be called "shock and awe," as the Belgian relentlessly whacked her forehand at Pennetta, returning shots like an animated ball machine.
In the first set, Wickmayer was always just a step ahead of Pennetta, but Pennetta used her signature tough-mindedness and cleverness to bring the set to a tiebreak. It was in that tiebreak, however, that Wickmayer completely took over, taking advantage of Pennetta's service problems, and posting a 7-2 score. After that, with Pennetta's errors increasing as her confidence shrank, Wickmayer bounded around the court with finely controlled aggression, getting the job done efficiently, with a 6-1 score.
There were some outstanding rallies, and on several occasions, it looked as though Pennetta were about to turn the whole thing around, but she just couldn't do it. I'm sure it didn't help that the only other times the two have played each other--in Linz last year, and in the recent Auckland final--Wickmayer won. It isn't easy to push Flavia Pennetta around, but Wickmayer's prior wins against her certainly must have given her confidence.
Recent events could have brought Wickmayer's spirits down, but instead, they seem to have lit a fire under her. Stay tuned...