I can get myself into a bit of a state with some of these matches and I was praying Laura Siegemund wouldn’t have one of those brilliant days and Rena would be slightly off. Thankfully there wasn’t anything to worry about here and more stresses will be justified as we progress. I don’t dispute Serena would have been aware of the threat today and when that’s the case in a slam, she is usually zoned in. That is how it played out. She played pretty well and got it done 6/1 6/1 in 56 minutes, which is a nice little bonus. I have to say I am loving this outfit too, looking good. Nina Stojanovic will be her next opponent after she surprised Irina-Camelia Begu.
You would think that Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova could cause Naomi Osaka problems as a three times quarter-finalist. In the same way that Williams was aware of the danger today, Osaka would have been no different. The result was another devastatingly quick win for the pretournament favourite 6/1 6/2. The Russian never really settled and that would mean that this would never get too competitive on the scoreboard. Caroline Garcia is another test for this stage of the tournament next but one you would expect her to come through.
Simona Halep showed no signs of the back injury as she walloped Lizette Cabrera for the loss of three games. Things can just go wrong for Halep though, so I take some of these results with a pinch of salt. If she can stay injury-free she won’t be too far away. The speed of the courts doesn’t suit her as well as they suit Osaka and Serena though and she may well have to beat both to make the final.
On Brit watch, Katie Boulter lost out to Darya Kasatkina. She wasn’t too pleased with her performance and seemed to suggest she put too much pressure on herself against The Russian. There is no doubt that Boulter is slowly making her way back up the rankings though and it has been a positive start to the year, going a few rounds last week and taking Osaka the distance. Elsewhere, there were wins for Venus, Ons Jabeur, Petra Kvitova and Aryna Sabalenka on a day of few shocks. Former Champion Angie Kerber was one player to exit the event though. Losing in straight sets to Bernarda Pera. The German doesn’t feel that being in ‘hard lockdown’ and playing an opponent who wasn’t didn’t help her chances. Bianca Andreescu played her first match in fifteen months and came through in three against Mihaela Buzarnescu, a good win when you consider things. It is great that she is back out there but a deep run here is asking a lot.
Novak Djokovic has never dropped a set against Jeremy Chardy, so that is just the 33-0 then? It isn’t a surprise so I shouldn’t dwell on this too much but it is still impressive. Rent Free is the expression I believe? Frances Tiafoe should be a better gauge in the next round. Jannik Sinner and Denis Shapovalov went at it, the match went the distance and the Canadian, who even though seeded caused an upset in terms of the betting. So highly rated is Sinner that I mentioned he was a top-priced 15/2 to win the quarter in my preview. I, like most, am a fan of what I have seen but hindsight tells us that the pressure of expectations can weigh on players shoulders at such a young age. The expectation is certainly there now too, make no mistake about it. A good win for Shapovavlov who looked to be second best for the first set.
Dominic Thiem was given a few early problems by Mikhail Kukushkin, who really enjoyed the surface. Thiem admitted after that he is having to adjust to the courts. After winning the first set breaker he went away from the Kazak. Alexander Zverev had to drop his mandatory set in the opening round, he does love to drop a set or two, doesn’t he? Anyway let’s not get into that again, this one was against Marcos Giron. Both Thiem and Zverev will undoubtedly have to improve, they face Dominik Koepfer and Maxime Cressy respectively in the Round of 64.
Elsewhere in the men’s, there were wins for Milos Raonic, Stan Wawrinka, FAA (having lost to Evo in the final the previous day), Nick Kyrgios, Pablo Carreno Busta and Diego Schwartzman. Gael Monfils lost to Emil Ruusuvuori and broke down in tears in his press conference after, saying he’s trying to get things going but lacking any sort of confidence. Bad times for the tenth seed and I feel for him, he’s a nice guy. Grigor Dimitrov beat Marin Cilic in straights. That is quite an impressive win and I certainly didn’t expect it to be so routine. Maybe it says more about the Croat going forward but this was a decent performance from reports.
Andy Del Potro