These are the words that let tennis fans know that a match is about to start. For Venus Williams, she was like most of us who hear the alarm clock, decide to hit it and say just one minute more please.
There is no doubt that Venus’ first round opponent, Swiss Miss Belinda Bencic was on her game. We saw that during her Hopman Cup matches. Her net game was much improved. she was fitter than before she had her injury layoff but what impressed a lot of people was her return of serve. Prior to her injury layoff, Bencic would routinely lose matches and one key stat was her inability to return serve. One cannot forget her suffering through 15 aces by Sharapova at the Australian Open in 2016.
Venus on the other hand could not get a read on Bencic’s serve. She had multiple break point opportunities to get even in the first set and while most of those opportunities had to do with Bencic serving her way out of trouble, it also had to do with Venus’ sluggishness.
Last year another great champion got taken to task for skipping the whole clay season to focus on the grass season. This was a decision that paid off in the end as Federer ended up winning Wimbledon. Perhaps the time has come for Venus to start scheduling smarter. I am sure that Serena was quite upset about not being able to defend her title here this year but she took the view that it was better that she return when she is able to compete effectively rather than just seeking to defend points.
Venus needs to take that same view. The Australian Open is a tournament at which Venus has had some shocking losses. She has made the finals twice in her long and storied career and frankly I would not miss her if she never played it again. I think Venus and her team need to take the long view when it comes to her schedule. She is not a young player. She has health issues and in my honest opinion, if Venus expects to win big tournaments or any tournament she needs to schedule better. If that means dropping tournaments that are too close to the end of the season or too close to the start of the season then she needs to drop them. I believe she should start her season in the spring by playing smaller tournaments to get match fit.
They kept dropping like flies. Sloane, Venus, Coco, Falconi, Kenin, and Townsend. The men were not to be left out as both Jack Sock and John Isner were both sent packing (MAGA). Even Ryan Harrison barely made it through as Dudi Sela served for the match, but failed to do so.
Sloane Stephens has not won a match since winning at the US Open last season. In her match against Zhang, Stephens served for the match at 5-4 in the second set but would go on to lose the set in a tiebreak, get broken early in the third set and seemed to tire at the end. Reduced to chasing balls and being pulled from side to side, Stephens would try drop shots that did not make their over the net, and the constant looking at her coach for guidance became the hallmark of the rest of the match.
As someone else has opined elsewhere, the worst thing to ever happen to Sloane Stephens was winning the US Open. It is a travesty that similar to Kim Clijsters who returned to the Tour in 2009 rested and refreshed only to win the US Open that year, Stephens returned to the WTA Tour, recovering from a knee injury and returned refreshed and renewed.
Australian Open App
Usually, I never write about these things because I find it quite tiring but I have to register my disgust with the Australian Open App. It does not work. No live scoring. No results. No schedule. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Millions of dollars have been spent. A draw ceremony that left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Maybe the Australian Open has lost its way. Hopefully, the same amount of effort that went into getting Sharapova to stand there and smile and answer questions about “returning” to the Tour will be made into getting an app that actually does what it is supposed to do.
Day 2 Schedule
The top half of the draw plays today and the Spin’s picks are below:
Rod Laver Arena
Pliskova (Ka) v. Cepede Royg
Barty v. Sabalenka
Halep v. Alava
Witthoeft v. Garcia (picking the higher ranked player but maybe an upset in the making if Garcia is not 100%)
Maria v. Sharapova (less said about this match up the better)
Muguruza v. Ponchet
Konta v. Brengle
Kerber v. Friedsam (confidence is everything)
Bouchard v. Dodin (while Dodin has not had much match play, Bouchard is not the picture of match toughness these days. It could very well be that Bouchard finds her game as she usually plays well in Australia. Pick at your own risk)
Petkovic v. Kvitova (which Petra shows up and has Petkovic peaked?)
Safarova v. Tomljanovic
Mladenovic v. Bogdan (surely Kiki can get her game together on the big stage, but her first round opponent has a big game and is fearless. Look for the upset here)
Jabeur v. Vesnina
Vikhlyantseva v. Tsurenko
Cabrera v. Haddad Maia
Giorgi v. Kalinskaya (my dark horse pick to make it to week 2)
Wang v. Keys
Pliskova (Kr) v. Radwanksa (it’s a Major, surely Aga will get her life together? The less famous Pliskova beat her earlier this year)
Lucic-Baroni v. Rogers (one is injured, the other is in a bit of slump. Look for the slumping player to take this one)
Osaka v. Kucova (new coach, new outlook. Let us see if Big Sascha has what it takes to be a coach)
Nara v. Vondrousova
Hibino v. Vekic (very tough match for Vekic who struggled in Hobart against Heather Watson. Let us see if the resurgent Vekic’s loss in Hobart was an anomaly)
Lepchenko v. Sevastova
Putintseva v. Watson
Ahn v. Strycova
Davis v. Cepelova (Lauren Davis has virtually disappeared since winning her lone WTA title last season in Auckland. Cepelova has been beset with injuries. This will be a match of who wants to get to the second round more)
Gasparyan v. Blinkova
Hsieh v. Zhu
Cirstea v. Diyas (Cirstea has been enjoying a fantastic resurgence. Can she make it past the very tough when she is on her game Diyas?)
Hercog v. Alexandrova
McHale v. Sasnovich
Arruabarrena v. Hogenkamp (neither player has shown good form over the past 12 months. Arruabarrena has regressed to obscurity. If she is on Hogenkamp will be sent packing, but I don’t see it)