Women's Australian Open Day Two: Drama After Drama, Niculescu and Babos Out - UBITENNIS
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Women’s Australian Open Day Two: Drama After Drama, Niculescu and Babos Out

Bottom half of the women’s draw brought great exciting matches. In this article we will focus on the matches that might have gone under your radar outside of the top players.

Jakub Bobro

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Match of the Day… so far

 

Match of the day has to go to the clash between Yanina Wickmayer and Lucie Safarova. The two experienced players faced off at Show Court 3, knowing that they would most likely face Serena Williams in their next match. Wickmayer was the better player until 6-3 5-4, when Safarova also stepped her game up. Wickmayer had the psychological advantage, having Safarova serve to stay in the match twice. She did well enough at 4-5, but at 5-6, Wickmayer gained access to her first match points. The Czech proved her mental fortitude and sent the second set into a tiebreak. Wickmayer was up in the tiebreak, giving her even more match points, but Safarova rallied back and won the second set tiebreak 9-7. The final set was dominated by Safarova, who won with the final scoreline 3-6 7-6(7) 6-1. Even more impressive than that, was the fact that Lucie Safarova saved NINE match points in the second set. It is easy to forget that Safarova was a Top 5 player just 2 years ago, and she certainly still has the quality.

The Upsets

There were two main upsets today, Nicole Gibbs beating 26th seeded Timea Babos 7-6 6-4 and more surprisingly Anna Blinkova getting the win over Monica Niculescu. Gibbs came into the match almost a favorite, as Babos could be marked as the weakest seed in the draw. The American has had a breakout year in 2016, and is showing that she can be a contender in 2017. Her second round opponent is another American, Irina Falconi with whom she has a 0-3 head-to-head.  Monica Niculescu was seen as a possible upset threat to Karolina Pliskova, over whom the Romanian has a 2-1 lead in head-to-head and is generally a bad match-up for the Czech. However these plans would be destroyed by the 18 year-old Russian star Anna Blinkova. Blinkova put together a great performance which was enough for Niculescu, but didn’t look okay throughout the match. She could have often been seen leaning against the fence and limping when walking to serve or return. One can only guess if it was the Australian heat, or something else that caused the Russian to act this way.

Seeds are through

Nine out of ten seeds so far has advanced, even outside the stars that are Pliskova, Konta and Serena Williams. 6th seed Dominika Cibulkova has gone past her first hurdle, Denisa Allertova with a comfortable 7-5 6-2. win. 21st seed Caroline Garcia managed to keep Kateryna Bondarenko at bay, in what was a very tricky first round. The French took the match in straight sets 7-6(4) 6-4, but it definitely wasn’t a straightforward match. If Garcia gets past her countrywoman Oceane Dodin in Round of 64, she will have a good shot of beating the other seed in her section, Barbora Strycova, and set up a possible 4th round showdown against Serena Williams. 28th seed and Brisbane finalist Alize Cornet has had a bit of unexpected struggle in her first round against Myrtille Georges. Cornet looked on her way to win the match in straights, but it was a 6-3 4-6 6-1 win instead. 31st seed Yulia Putintseva had a great match with Lara Arruabarrena, who had a great Hopman Cup run. Putintseva took the match in two close tiebreaks 7-6(7) 7-6(10).  14th seed Elena Vesnina passed comfortably to second round with a 7-5 6-2 win over Ana Bogdan of Romania. 30th seed Ekaterina Makarova, who has made Australian Open semifinals in the past got a dramatic start to this year’s edition against Ekaterina Alexandrova, her countrywoman. Makarova won after 1 hour and 25 minutes and a curious scoreline- 6-0 4-6 6-1.

 

Who is still in?

There are many exciting unseeded players still in the draw after the first round, and here are some that made it out after today. Naomi Osaka of Japan is through to the second round after a tough opener against Luksika Kumkhum, winning 6-7(2) 6-4 7-5. Thus Osaka has set up a blockbuster second round against 9th seed and Sydney champion Johanna Konta. Osaka’s fellow WTA Rising Star Jelena Ostapenko reaches second round after a quick 6-4 6-0 win over Lin Zhu. Former Top 10 player Sara Errani is still going strong in Melbourne, after defeating Risa Ozaki of Japan 7-5 6-1. Rest of the players that won today are the following: Irina Falconi, Donna Vekic, Oceane Dodin, Maria Sakkari and Su-Wei Hsieh.

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Sorana Cirstea Makes Winning Start To French Open After Seeking Help From Djokovic’s Coach

The Grand Slam winning mentor was seen in the crowd watching Cirstea play her first round match in Paris.

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Image via https://twitter.com/rolandgarros

Heading into her 14th French Open main draw Sorona Cristea decided to take a shot and ask for advice from one former Grand Slam champion.

 

The 32-year-old Romanian has endured a mixed results on the clay this year with a run to the semifinals of the Istanbul Open followed by three straight first round losses on the Tour. It has been a frustrating past few weeks for the Tour veteran who is currently ranked 27th in the world. Just six spots below her career-high.

Seeking further guidance for her French Open bid, Cirstea approached Goran Ivanisevic for help. The former Wimbledon champion who now works as coach of the men’s world No.1 Novak Djokovic. To her delight, he agreed to give her some pointers.

He came to one of my practices two days ago. Basically, I just asked for his help and I was lucky enough to get an hour of his time,” Cirstea told reporters.
“I talked with him a little bit about what’s going through my head and just tennis. It was a very, very pleasant hour.”

Ivanisevic was seen courtside watching Cirstea play her first round match at Roland Garros on Sunday morning. The 26th seed defeated Germany’s Tatjana Maria 6-3, 6-3, in just over an hour. Hitting a total of 34 winners against 26 unforced errors.

“I was very surprised to see him because I know he’s very busy with Novak,” she continued. “He was very, very kind to be there and I was happy to see him there.’
“He’s just been giving me a few tips and tricks from a Grand Slam champion, and as a coach of No. 1, and someone that has so much experience. I’m very grateful and very lucky to have the chance to spend that hour on court with him.”

This year’s French Open is the 53rd Grand Slam Cirstea has played in. She has reached six WTA finals, winning the 2008 Tashkent Open and 2021 Istanbul Open. Against top 10 players she has recorded a total of 16 wins to date.

Reflecting on her development as a player, the Romanian believes a change in perspective has enabled her to enjoy more success on the Tour in recent years. Cristea has been continuously ranked in the world’s top 100 since September 2019.

“When I was younger, I was taking the losses a bit much, they were hurting a bit too much, where now I am much more relaxed, much more at peace,” she explains.
“You cannot change what happened last week, so why bother? Try to learn and then just go forward with the positive mindset.”

Cirstea will play Sloane Stephens in the second round of Roland Garros. Stephens, who is unseeded in the draw, battled back from a set down to defeat Germany’s Jule Niemeier 5-7, 6-4, 6-2.

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Former Finalist Marketa Vondrousova To Miss French Open Following Surgery

The Olympic silver medallist will miss a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in two-and-a-half years.

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Image via https://twitter.com/WTA_insider

Czech world No.35 Marketa Vondrousova has pulled out of next week’s French Open after undergoing what she describes as a ‘small surgery.’

 

Vondrousova, who reached the final at Roland Garros back in 2019, underwent a procedure on her left wrist after experiencing recurring pain. She decided to do so following a medical consultation and will be soon going through rehab. It will be the first Grand Slam event she has missed since the 2019 US Open which she also withdrew from due to a wrist injury.

“The last few weeks were not easy, I have been experiencing recurring pain in my wrist,” Vondrousova wrote in an Instagram post published on Monday. “After seeing a couple of doctors I decided to get this small surgery done to be able to play pain-free.”
“Staying positive through the recovery and can’t wait to be back on the court soon,”
she added.

The 22-year-old last played on Tour at the Stuttgart Open where she lost in the first round to Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur. So far this season she has achieved a win-loss record of 13-5 with her best run being to the semi-finals of the Dubai Tennis Championships as a qualifier. Vondrousova also reached the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and defeated Emma Raducanu in the Billie Jean Cup.

A former junior world No.1, Vondrousova has been ranked as high as 14th in the world. So far in her career, she has won just one WTA title which was back in 2017 at the Lugano Open in Switzerland. However, she has reached the final at another four events with the last being at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. She has scored a total of six wins over top 10 players.

Another player in doubt for the French Open is defending champion Barbora Krejcikova who hasn’t played a match on the Tour since February. The world No.2 has been sidelined from action due to an elbow injury but remains on the entry list for the Grand Slam which will begin on Sunday.

The French Open draw will take place on Thursday.

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Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina Announces Pregnancy

Tennis’ power couple are set to become parents later this year.

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Former world No.3 Elina Svitoliva has announced that she is expecting a baby girl in October on social media.

 

The 27-year-old made the announcement on Sunday morning with a picture of her and her husband, French tennis star Gael Monfils. Known by some as the sports ‘power couple,’ the two tied the knot last July in Geneva ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games after first going public about their relationship in 2019. They even have their own Instagram account called ‘g.e.m.s. life’ which has more than 139,000 followers.

“With a heart full of love and happiness, we are delighted to announce that we are expecting a baby girl in October,” the couple wrote on Twitter.

https://twitter.com/ElinaSvitolina/status/1525778313918177280

Svitolina hadn’t played on the Tour since losing to Heather Watson at the Miami Open in March after deciding to take time away from the sport due to events happening in her home country. Russia launched a military operation against Ukraine earlier this year which has claimed thousands of lives. Svitolina is one of the sport’s most outspoken players regarding the conflict. She has previously spoken out against the decision to ban Russian and Belarussian athletes from Wimbledon by arguing that they should be allowed to participate if they condemn the actions of their home countries.

We don’t want them banned completely,” Svitolina told BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast.
“If players don’t speak out against the Russian government then it is the right thing to ban them.”

Prior to announcing her pregnancy, Svitolina has achieved a win-loss record of 5-8 on the Tour this season with her best runs being to the third round of the Australian Open and the quarter-finals of a WTA event in Monterrey.

During her career, the Ukrainian has won 16 WTA titles and reached the semi-finals of two Grand Slams during 2019.

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