CARNAGE, CARNAGE AND MORE CARNAGE

by Karen 


It feels like I write this headline (or something along those lines) at the start of every Grand Slam.  The names change but the issue is always the same.  It is also always about the seeded players on the women’s side who don’t live up to their seeding.  While for me it shows the depth of talent on the women’s side, for others it just allows them to throw more fuel on the fire in condemning the state of the women’s game by pointing out how the top seeds (never mind that no one from the top 10 has been ousted), already the story lines about the weakness of women’s tennis will rear its ugly head.

I asked one of the more ardent fans of women’s tennis to give me her take on the seeds falling on Day 1 of the tournament.  Stephanie was of the view that although “multiple women’s seeds fell on day 1 of the Australian Open, does this mean mean that the Tour is in dire straights? Of course not. Serena is a dominant number one on the WTA but there’s so much talent on the tour right now that rankings don’t mean much. And players aren’t, and shouldn’t be, intimidated by the success some tour vets have had when they step on the court to compete. So we see players like Daria Kasatkina, Margarita Gasparyan, Yulia Putintseva and Qiang Wang battle hard, as they should, to knock out higher ranked opponents. And that’s exciting!”

The seeds who fell in round 1 of the Australian Open so far and their conquerors are:-
Pliskova (Krystina) d Stosur [25]
Wang (Q) d Stephens [24]
Putintseva d Wozniacki [16]
Gasparyan d Errani [17]
Kulichkova d Petkovic [22]
Davis d Pavlyuchenkova [26]
Kasatkina d Schmiedlova [27]

Steph went on to say that she does not think many of the ‘upsets’ were a surprise. Petkovic, Wozniacki and Errani are not playing at the same level they used to, and when did we ever consider Pavlyuchenkova or Stosur reliable?
Of the matches where seeds fell, I think the biggest shock for me was Wozniacki losing to Putintseva and not because I don’t consider Putintseva to be a tough first round, but I expected her to use her experience in these situations to come through.  In addition, after her aggressive looking play in Auckland, I was of the view that Wozniacki had finally come to terms with the fact that she needed to take control of points in order to win, but that was not the case. 
Another result that really shocked not only me but the tennis world as well was the qualifier Wang taking out Sloane Stephens.  Stephens had been the sexy pick for many commentators as a result of her title win in Auckland.  However, from 3-1 up in the second set, Past Sloane showed up.  Credit to her for finding her Future self in the second set, but it was not to be and the qualifier, who played brilliantly during the qualifying rounds as well, is in the second round.  Sloane, for all her improvements, especially on her backhand side,  is on to the next tournament.
Sam Stosur continues to disappoint her many Australian (and many others worldwide) with her play Down Under.  I am not going to jump on the Stosur is anxious when playing in front of her home crowd bandwagon.  Suffice it to say that she has been battling a sore wrist for which she required cortisone shots earlier this season.  That, and an opponent who hits hard and flat will cause Stosur to have issues.  

 DAY 2 PICKS

Rod Laver
Kontaveit
Muguruza
Williams (V)
Konta
Azarenka
Van Uytvanck
Margaret Court
Keys
Diyas
Sevastova
Wolfe
Zhang
Halep
Hisense
Birrell
Pliskova (Karolina)
Patterson
Ivanovic
Show Court 2
Jankovic
Hercog
Kerber
Doi
Show Court 3
Makarova
Inglis
Cetkovska
Lisicki
Court 5
Flipkens
Lucic-Baroni
Court 6
Garcia
Strycova
Jovanovski
Cornet
Court 7
Hon
Beck
Sanders
Dulgheru
Osaka
Vekic
Witthoeft
Zheng
Court 10
Siegemund
Bertens
Court 13
Siniakova
Bacsinszky
Mattek-Sands
Allertova
Court 14
Barthel
King
Brengle
Vandeweghe
Court 15
Duval
Svitolina
Crawford
Kovinic
Court 19
Mitu
Georges
Larsson
Begu
Court 20
Maria
Govortsova
Tsurenko
Lepchenko
Court 22
Pironkova
Shvedova
Arruabarrena
Zanevska

Upset Alert 

While many are picking Azarenka to make a deep run at this year’s Australian Open final, I am still continuing to adopt a wait and see approach.  Vika’s first round opponent  is no pushover.  She has a big game, is moving much better than when she got bagelled by Serena at this event a year ago and she has gone deep into a Grand Slam (quarter-final at last year’s French Open).  As much as Vika has improved, many seem to forget that apart from her matches against Serena last year (all of which she lost), Vika is yet to beat anyone of note since her return to active competition.  A title win, while a confidence booster is not a Grand Slam. For me, this match will be competitive and we could see an upset. 

Simona Halep has had Achilles problems for as long as I have been following her career.  She did not seem to have much trouble in her match against Kuznetsova.  She should be well rested to start her campaign for that elusive Grand Slam title, something she has now put as a priority (I am not happy about that).  Zhang can be a tough opponent for any player, especially if you are not 100%. 

I am concerned about Venus Williams and her young opponent, not because I don’t think that Venus has the game to win this easily, but because every player has on their bucket list to beat a Williams Sister.  I am hopeful that today is not Konta’s day. 

Keys v. Diyas should be a quick match for Keys, if she is healthy.  If not, look for Diyas to run her ragged all day in the Australian sunshine. 

Duval v. Svitolina could be tasty, as will Crawford v. Kovinic.  Doi can be a tough one for Kerber if she is not on her game but Kerber should pull through easily. 

Please note that play starts at 7:00 p.m. EST on Tennis Channel with the switch at 9:00 p.m. to ESPN2. 

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