Monday, January 17, 2011

Rezai, Hantuchova and Groth go out in 1st round of Australian Open

Aravane Rezai, one of the streakiest players on the tour, was probably expected to do fairly well in Melbourne. But her first round couldn't have gotten off to a worse start than it did when she lost the first set 0-6 to Barbora Zahlavova Strycova. Zahlavova Strycova went on to defeat the 17th-seeded Rezai 6-0, 3-6, 7-5. The Czech doubles star is not exactly whom anyone wants to see in the first round, and she broke Rezai five times.

No one on U.S. television was paying attention to it (instead, we were forced to watch Sam Querrey sleepwalk through five sets), but the match between Daniela Hantuchova and Regina Kulikova was apparently a tension-filled tennis roller coaster. Between them, 28th seed Hantuchova and Kulikova hit 94 winners and made 99 unforced errors. The final set lasted an hour and 40 minutes, and the match took three hours and 39 minutes to complete. Hantuchova recently returned to the courts following an injury break, and could not be expected to perform at her top level. She has generally played her best tennis (and had some of her most frustrating mental collapses) in Melbourne, and it was kind of sad to see her go. (It was also sad to see her lovely Addidas dress go, especially considering some of the tennis outfits we have to look at in upcoming rounds.)

Jarmila Groth, Australia's second-best female player, and winner of the recent tournament in Hobart, also made an exit. She had an especially difficult first round opponent, 21st seed Yanina Wickmayer, who defeated her 6-3, 2-6, 6-4. Groth hit 37 winners, including nine aces, but she made too many (49) unforced errors. Groth's opponent in the Hobart final, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, was also defeated in the opening round; she lost to qualifier Arantxa Rus.

Top seed Caroline Wozniacki played a "trademark" Wozniacki game, hitting few winners and making few unforced errors. She defeated Gisela Dulko in straight sets. 2008 champion Maria Sharapova also won in straight sets, and she double-faulted ten times. 6th seed Francesca Schiavone had to go three sets, but she advanced to the second round by defeating Arantxa Parra Santonja, and 15th seed Marion Bartoli needed only 47 minutes to defeat Tathiana Garbin 6-0, 6-0. (Garbin's career is obviously winding down, but it's my hope that fans don't forget how many hours of lovely and entertaining tennis she has provided us over the years.)

In addition to Rus, two other qualifiers--Anne Keothavong and Vesna Manasieva--won their opening round matches. Wild card Jelena Dokic also advanced to the second round.