Serena Williams recovered from a dismal start to ease her way past Yulia Putintseva 7-6 (2), 6-0, during an error-stricken second round match in Indian Wells.
The top seed is familiar with Putintseva’s game after defeating her in straight sets at the 2013 Madrid Open. The game of the player from Kazakhstan wasn’t the problem for the favourite during the first set. The problem was consistently in the Williams game.
The world No.1 made a sluggish start to the match against her 21-year-old opponent. An error-stricken opening service game from Williams handed Putintseva a break point chance before she battled back to clinch the game. The erratic shot-making from the American played into the hands of Kazak rival, ranked 55 places below her. Putintseva’s game plan was to force the top seed far behind the baseline to set her up for the winners. Usually play like this wouldn’t trouble Williams but she was far from her best. A world-class forehand deep into the corner of the court handed Putintseva the first break of the match to lead 2-1. Williams had a double chance to break back immediately but failed to convert. As the opening set progressed, Putintseva was faced with the daunting task of serving for the opening set at 5-4. She failed to do so after succumbing to the power of Williams, with the favourite firing a backhand cross court winner to level at 5-5, prompting a loud cheer from the Californian crowd.
After leveling, many expected Williams to regain control of the match. This expectation failed to come to life as she produced a dismal service game, consisting of four consecutive unforced errors, to hand Putintseva a second chance to serve for the set. The world No.56 was yet again unable to serve it out due to more powerful return shots from Williams, taking the set into a tiebreak.
The tiebreaker consisted of the usual Williams display, with her overpowering her opponent. The world No.1 broke her opponent twice with a blistering backhand down the line followed by a blistering return which painted the line a couple points later. The roller-coaster set was finally sealed when a serve out wide forced Putintseva to return the ball out. Despite sealing the set, Williams produced an outstanding 29 unforced errors compared to only 14 winners.
The encounter was a tale of two worlds with a blistering performance in the second set from Williams. Ensuring that she wouldn’t reproduced her poor start to the first set, Williams took the early initiative by returning a slow second serve from her opponent down the line to grab an early break. The surge in Williams performance continued as she appeared more confident with her footwork on the court. Another spectacular forehand return from the top seed gave her the double break to extend the lead to 3-0, against a growingly frustrated Putintseva. With the entire match momentum behind her, It was only a matter of time before the 21-time grand slam champion took the match. Serving for the match, Williams quickly raced to three set points before taking the match with an ace down the center of the court.
Taking the roller-coaster match after 75 minutes of play, Williams produced 27 winners compared to 33 unforced errors. Furthermore, she produced seven aces and successfully converted 5/7 break points.
“The first set was a little tricky. I kinda had to figure it out and figure out my game. I had to find my inner tiger”. A relieved world No.1 joked during her on-court interview.
The win sets Williams up with a fourth round clash with Ukrainian qualifier Kateryna Bondarenko. It will be the first meeting between the two players since 2009.
Garbine Muguruza Reaches New Milestone As Swiatek Finds Her Groove At Australian Open
The two title contenders were in impressive form during their opening matches.
Third seed Garbine Muguruza extended her perfect run of first round wins at the Australian Open to 10 with a straightforward victory over France’s Clara Burel.
The former world No.1, who is yet to lose an opening match played at Melbourne Park in her career, required just under 90 minutes to see off Burel 6-3, 6-4. Muguruza broke her rival three consecutive times during the first set to win the opener in just over half an hour. Then in the second she eased to a 5-3 lead but failed to convert three match points. Muguruza was then broken in the following game before breaking back again to seal victory.
“It felt very good. I didn’t know really who I was facing. We’ve never played before,” Muguruza told reporters afterwards. “Very tricky. You’re always nervous going out there on Rod Laver, which I love, and starting a Grand Slam campaign.’
“I’m very happy the way I played and, of course, controlling the nerves.”
On what is the ninth anniversary of her Melbourne Park debut. Muguruza is hoping to go one step further than she did back in 2020 and win the title. She has now won 27 matches at the Australian Open which makes it her second most successful Grand Slam in terms of wins. Her best is the French Open where she has recorded 29 victories.
Muguruza will next take on another French player in the shape of Alize Cornet. During her on-court interview on Tuesday she was asked about her net play which the Spaniard said is a reflection of her on-court personality.
“It’s just a journey of adapting to your character,” she said. “I’m an aggressive player on the court and I like to dominate. I train like that. I’m not like that outside but inside the court I’m aggressive.”
Swiatek and her new coach
Another winner on day two was former French Open champion Iga Swiatek who swept aside Britain’s Harriet Dart 6-3, 6-0. At the start of the match she was trailing 1-3 before fighting back by winning 11 games in a row. The Pole is playing in her 12th Grand Slam main draw and is hoping to go beyond the fourth round in Australia for the first time in her career.
“You could see that first few games were pretty tricky for me. With the sun, I know I got broken in my second service game,” said Swiatek.
“I’m pretty happy that I was patient, I found the rhythm throughout the match. That’s pretty positive.”
Swiatek is in Melbourne with her new coach Tomasz Wiktorowski who is known for his previous work with Agnieszka Radwanska. She admits the new collaboration is very much a work in progress but believes she is heading in the right direction with her new mentor.
“He didn’t change a lot at the beginning because he was good to continue the process that I’ve had. Too many changes would be really confusing,” she said of Wiktorowski.
“We’re focusing on different stuff. We’re working on my strengths, which is great, because it’s going to give me confidence. I’m going to be able to be more, like, proactive on court. We were working on some attack formations and offensive game.’
“But we also didn’t have time to work on everything that we wanted to because there is a lot to improve in terms of my volleys and maybe slice.”
Swiatek will play Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson in the second round.
Petra Kvitova Links Lack Of Match Play, Health Issues To Australian Open Loss
The Czech reacts to her shock exit from Melbourne Park.
Former world No.2 Petra Kvitova has insisted that she still has the game to compete with the best players in the world after crashing out in the first round of the Australian Open on Tuesday.
Kvitova, who reached the final in Melbourne Park back in 2019, only managed to win four games during her 6-2, 6-2, loss to Sorana Cirstea. The Czech looked out of sorts on court as she hit a staggering 39 unforced errors compared to only seven winners. She also only managed to win 41% of her second service points and was broken four times in the match. It is the third time in Kvitova’s career she has lost in the first round at the Australian Open after 2014 and 2018.
“I don’t have much to say. It wasn’t really going my way the whole month. That’s how it is, I think. It’s a sport, and I just have to fight through and be better at it,” said Kvitova.
“I think that she (Cirstea) likes my game, she just is going to it and she has to risk, and everything (she hit) was in. I think for her I think it’s a little bit tougher when she has to create the game, and this time it was just there and putting fast balls back.”
Kvitova’s loss comes during what has been a lacklustre start to the season. Earlier this month at the Adelaide International she suffered a shock loss to world No.221 Priscilla Hon. A week later in Sydney she managed to reach the second round before losing to Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur who had to pull out of the Australian Open due to injury.
Despite her disappointing results on the Tour, the two-time Grand Slam champion is confident she will be able to turn her season around as she outlines two reasons behind her recent performances.
“I think it’s (my game) still there. It’s just I think I didn’t play a lot of matches at the beginning of this year,” she explained. “I did have some health issues the whole month, as well, so it was tough to practice during home month.’
“It wasn’t really as easy this beginning of the season, but the season is long, so I hope that it will turn around.”
Kvitova has won 28 WTA titles in her career with the last of those occurring in March 2021 at the Qatar Open. She is now on the verge of dropping out of the world’s top 20 for a second time this season.
“I think I need the matches on the other side,” she admits. “It’s really tough to see the future right now after this loss. I know I have to, first of all, calm down and see clearly more after some days.’
“I have to have a few days off to make my rest better, so that definitely will be one of the main goals, and then for sure some preparation before the next tournaments.”
As for Cirstea, she will play Kristína Kučová in the second round.
Coco Gauff Reacts To Shock Australian Open Exit
The American produced an error-stricken performance at Melbourne Park on Monday.
Coco Gauff says ‘everything’ about her latest performance disappointed her after she suffered a surprise first round loss at the Australian Open.
The world No.16 struggled to find her footing on court throughout her 6-4, 6-2, loss to China’s Wang Qiang. A player who didn’t play a single match after the Olympic Games last year and started this season with two consecutive first round defeats. It is the first time the 17-year-old has failed to go beyond the first round of a Grand Slam since the 2020 US Open.
“I think today I came into the match and the first couple of games, even though they were close, I was making more errors than I was used to,” Gauff said afterwards.
Gauff’s latest experience at Melbourne Park saw her hit a staggering 38 unforced errors compared to only 15 winners. She also struggled behind her second serve where she won just 45% of the points.
The defeat is a stark contrast to earlier this month when the rising star looked to be on track to generating momentum on the Tour. In Adelaide she led world No.1 Ash Barty by a set and a break before losing. A week on from that she reached the semi-finals of another event before losing to eventual champion Madison Keys.
“I think just everything disappointed me about today,” she said. “I feel like in the preseason, like I worked really hard, and I felt like I was ready to have a good run here. Today I just didn’t perform well.
“And I think learning-wise, I think there’s a lot to learn from. I think I didn’t play as free as I normally do today. I think I was playing a little bit tighter than normal. So I think next time coming into the first round of a slam, especially after a tough week before, I think I need to just play more free and focus on the moment.”
As Gauff is left to reflect on her performance, Wang is relishing her return to the winner’s circle. The 30-year-old has been ranked as high as 12th in the world and has won two WTA titles. In 2019 she reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon.
“I lost two times against her last year so I just tried my best and focus on the court,” said Wang, who is coached by Pat Cash.
Wang will play Belgium’s Alison Van Uytvanck in the second round.
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