Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Aussie! Aussie! Aus--well, just "Aussie"

We are halfway through the second round of the Australian Open, and there's one Aussie standing in the women's draw. That would be brand new Aussie Daria Gavrilova, who upset 6th seed Petra Kvitova in straight sets last night. The upset won't surprise some because Kvitova has been so ill and has had no match practice. On the other hand, she looked stunning in her first round and served remarkably well. But this is Petra we're talking about, so anything can happen at any time.

It's also Gavrilova we're talking about, and this goofy (in a good way) Russian-born player is such a determined fighter, the Italian players probably wonder why she didn't switch over to their country. A player has to have talent, skill and fitness to succeed on the tour, but she also needs a winning attitude, and Gavrilova has that in abundance. She's also smart: 2015's Newcomer of the Year pulled some of Kvitova's own tricks on the 6th seed in their second round match.

Next for Gavrilova is Kiki Mladenovic, and that is an absolute must-watch contest. Provided Mladenovic holds her nerve and brings her sometimes-absent splendid serve, this could be a dramatic match. Both players know how to confound and confuse opponents. Gavrilova is the steadier of the two, but when the Frenchwoman is "on," she can be lethal.

The second round, so far, has produced a few revelations. Maria Sakkari, though she lost in three sets to 10th seed Carla Suarez Navarro, announced herself to the tennis world in an exciting way. She did some big serving and showed a lot of spirit against the Spaniard.

And then there was Kateryna Bondarenko, whose talent has never been in question, but whose career has been interrupted a lot. Bondarenko beat Sydney champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in straight sets, and while this is no great surprise to any WTA fan, it should still be noted that the Ukrainian player is in very good form.

Monica Puig continued her good start to the season by advancing to the third round with a win over Kristyna Pliskova, who hit 31 aces in the three-set match. And Margarita Gasparyan continued her own momentum with a victory over Kurumi Nara.

The young Russian (and Russian-born) are on fire so far. Elizavita Kulichkova defeated Monica Niculescu, and Daria Kasatkina defeated Ana Konjuh.

WTA Backspin advises us to Fear The Kasatkina, and I think it's pretty good advice. Give the 18-year-old a bit of time, and--if she continues on her current path--there will indeed be players who fear her. She has a rather large obstacle in that current path right now, however. Kasatkina's third round opponent is defending champion and top seed Serena Williams. I don't think the Russian is going to go to pieces against Serena, so the match will most likely be fun to watch.

In the meantime, my "must watch" match for the fourth day is Naomi Osaka vs. Elina Svitollina.


Todd.Spiker said...

Kvitova aside, was there any more "Czech" (for all its good and bad connotations) a performance than that of Kristyna Pliskova? 31 aces and five MP (two on her own serve), but she still loses. (Shakes head.)

Diane said...

I predict a Pliskova lecture series will be added to the Backspin Academy's lineup. Maybe "An Expert's Czechlist For Choking" or "Serve Your Way To Defeat the Pliskova Way"!

Todd.Spiker said...

I think they're arranging the letters for the sign outside the auditorium for that second one, for sure! :)

(Or maybe both -- it can be a two-part series.)

shalini said...

Oasaka vs Svitolina did not disappoint. Osaka is so powerful and was so poised. I am definitely impressed. Shui Zang continues with the upsets as well. So far a very entertaining slam!

Diane said...

Zhang--both Halep and Cornet--wow! So far, the best story in the draw.

I was actually disappointed in Svitolina, who didn't do anything with Osaka's weak second serves. Vika will! But yes, Osaka is quite impressive, and has such great court presence.

Makarova vs, Pliskova could be a good one. As always, Katya glides quietly through the draw.