by The Spin Team
We have now entered Week Two of the Australian Open. Unlike the calm of Middle Sunday and the beginning of Manic Monday, the time differences have allowed us to move seamlessly from Week One into Week Two. However, before we preview what to expect from the quarterfinals on (we are still waiting on the bottom half to finish their round of 16) but in the meantime MasterAce has some thoughts on Week One.
The media has made the falling of seeds a story line on the women’s side. As is the norm, the media never takes a moment to look at the quality of the win, only that someone who because of rankings is seeded at a Slam, while someone with all the talent in the world or due to injury has to play qualifying.
Week One Thoughts
Day One: Sloane Stephens (a hot pick to either win this event or go deep) lost on the first day of play to Qiang Wang in straight sets. Old Sloane showed up by losing a 3-1 first set lead and going down a double break in the second set. The slumped shoulders, lack of footwork and general poor attitude that has marked most of Sloane’s losses reared their head.
Another player who was expected to at least make the round of 16, Caroline Wozniacki, was also ousted on day one. She went out in three sets to Russian, Yulia Putintseva. All in all Wozniacki has not had a good start to the 2016 season.
Day Two: The upset bug which reared its head on day one, turned up on day two. First to go was No. 2 seed, Simona Halep who went down to Shuai Zhang, a qualifier, (who is still in the tournament).
Day Three: When you thought the upsets would stop, Daria Gavrilova defeated Petra Kvitova, who never does well at this Slam. Svetlana Kuznetsova, who won Sydney, got defeated in straight sets by Kateryna Bondarenko, who has played very well since coming back to the Tour after having a child. Kristyna Pliskova set a WTA record with 31 aces and two match points but ended up losing in three sets to Monica Puig. The marquee matchup between Agnieszka Radwanska, who won Shenzhen and Eugenie Bouchard, who has started off solidly, ended up with Radwanska on a one way trip to the 3rd round after stopping Bouchard who led 4-2 in the first set.
Day Four: Timea Bacsinszky is off to a poor start in 2016 as she lost to Annika Beck (still in the tournament). Naomi Osaka caused a minor upset in defeating Elina Svitolina
Day Five: Gavrilova, with the help from the crowd, defeated Kristina Mladenovic 11-9 in the deciding set. Some people on Twitter want the final set to be decided by the tiebreaker which is the case at United States Open but I love the current format. The reason is a tiebreak is a crapshoot while the current format is decided on who has the will to make the plays, without on court coaching, which is another pet peeve of mine but will not be discussed today. Maria Sharapova had to play three sets against Lauren Davis but cruised in the end. Anna-Lena Friedsam recovered from a first set bagel to defeat Roberta Vinci.
Day Six: The upsets continue as Barbara Strycova easily defeated Garbine Muguruza. The Spin pointed out on Twitter on Day 4 that Muguruza did not look good against Kirsten Flipkens despite winning. Her analysis ended up spot on. Ekaterina Makarova continues to do well at a hard court Slam especially in Melbourne as she reaches the 4thround to face Konta. At the moment, I would favor Makarova to make another hard court semifinal. With Makarova returning from injury, a benefit for her is not playing doubles with her regular partner, Elena Vesnina, which allows her to work on fitness.
These players will have played a good tournament regardless of the final result are Margarita Gasparyan, Gavrilova, S Zhang, Beck, Konta, Strycova, Friedsam, Daria Kasatkina, who ran into the S Williams juggernaut lasting 44 minutes in 3rd round, Putintseva, K Bondarenko, Davis, Puig, Elizaveta Kulichkova, Q Wang, who had to qualify for the main draw, Maria Sakkari, Laura Siegemund, Osaka, Denisa Allertova and Varvara Lepchenko, who I will not be shocked if she has a good 2016 that will capped off by going to Rio.
Player of the week is Shuai Zhang. She won her first three main draw matches in straight sets after having to qualify for the main draw.
Here are my revised picks going into week 2
SF 1 : S Williams vs A Radwanska
SF 2 : Azarenka vs Makarova
F: S Williams vs Azarenka
Spin’s Thoughts on Week One
Every year the same story is sold by the media. As soon as a top seed falls, there is the constant holding of hands bemoaning the state of the women’s game. Frankly, nothing could be further from the truth.
Despite seeds falling early on in the tournament, at the end of the day fans have been treated to some excellent tennis. Players like Gavrilova, Zhang, Konta, Kasatkina, Gasparyan showcased beautiful all court tennis. They played fearlessly when they needed to and they showed heart (Siegemund). There were many players from whom we expected much (Annika Beck) who are finallly delivering on their talent. Naomi Osaka showed us that she is no one hit wonder and that we should keep our eyes on the long term growth of players. Anyone can catch fire over a two week or even one week period, but it is the way you back it up day in and day out that counts.
I love watching Bencic play tennis. I could really sit and watch her all day. Her game is being compared to Hingis because commentators are short sighted and clueless about providing detailed and proper analysis. One of Hingis’ strength is her return of serve. On 2 occassions Bencic has been served off the court because one she can’t return serve properly and two her hand eye coordination is non-existent. How else to describe having 21 serves whizz by you without making a play on the ball. I looked at Bencic’s return stats for 2015 and she never even made the top 10 in terms of return of serve. Compare that to Azarenka who is ranked lower, played less tournaments and did not win any titles who is ranked in the top 5 in terms of return of serve. That is a part of Bencic’s game that she needs to work on if she wants to be No.1 and win Grand Slams.
That being said, losing 5 and 5 to someone like Sharapova is nothing to be ashamed of. I thought she played very well and she had chances. Next time.
Serena and Maria (what number have we reached)
For years pundits have said that the only thing separating Serena and Maria is the serve. They have repeatedly said that if not for the shoulder injury that Maria suffered she would have been better able to stay with Serena. Maria now has a serve. She served 21 aces against Bencic and for the tournament she has served 52 aces so far, compared to Serena who has less than half that amount. Who will win their quarter-final match? I have no idea. I know though that from all the matches that I have seen it takes more than a serve to beat Serena. For Sharapova to beat Serena she will have to have her A game or rely on Serena to not be on her game. I don’t think that Serena will ever allow herself to lose to Sharapova, but we will see.