Wednesday, January 18, 2012

McHale fights past Erakovic

If you saw a more thrilling Australian Open match yesterday than the 2nd round contest between Christina McHale and Marina Erakovic, then it's one I wish I had seen, too. McHale's 3-6, 7-6, 6-3 victory over Erakovic and her sometimes ferocious forehand was a testament to the lessons McHale has learned about staying mentally steady in a long match. It also didn't hurt that McHale--after she found her footing--was hitting with crack precision much of the time.

Erakovic began the first set of the 2-hour and 47-minute match by holding her serve, then breaking McHale. She then saved two break points and held for 3-0. Serving at 5-3, the New Zealander saved a break point and took the first set. The second set was a different story, with McHale more able to handle Erakovic's service games. McHale went up 5-2, 40-15, but just when it looked like an easy turnaround, Erakovic fought back and eventually forced a tiebreak.

McHale won the tiebreak, and then won the third set when Erakovic--though still sometimes able to hit her estimable forehand--made too many errors to overtake her opponent.

McHale hit 31 winners and made 33 unforced errors; Erakovic hit 47 winners and made 49 unforced errors. At its best moments, this was a match that featured wonderful shot-making by both players. They painted the lines over and over, and used every inch of the court.

McHale will play 13th seed Jelena Jankovic in the third round.

20th seed Daniela Hantuchova had a fight on her hands, too, against the stunningly athletic Lesia Tsurenko. It was an entertaining match in which Tsurenko never gave up, but in the end, the more experienced Hantuchova advanced, with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory.

Iveta Benesova skillfully put away 16th seed Peng Shuai in straight sets, and countrywoman Romina Oprandi upset 10th seed Francesca Schiavone in straight sets, also. Hobart champion Mona Barthel advanced to the next round with a win over Petra Cetkovska, and Victoria Azarenka, Li Na and Kim Clijsters had easy wins.

Top seed Caroline Wozniacki, however, struggled somewhat against Anna Tatishvili. Wozniacki won the first set 6-1, but Tatishvili took her to a tiebreak in the second set. Wozniacki emerged the winner, and will play Monica Niculescu in the third round.

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