Another nice, straight forward win for Serena, this time over Nina Stojanovic. It wasn’t anything to get too excited about but another win and did what was required. That is all you can ask for. In an ideal world, you want your form to rise round by round and peak in the final. Sounds simple right? My other favourite is you need to get through the first week as safely as possible. On that basis, things are going pretty well at the moment. I really love the ‘one leg catsuit’, a tribute to Flo-Jo. She plays the up and coming Russian, Anastasia Potapova for a place in the last 16. A former World Number One in the juniors and winner of the Wimbledon Girls title in 2016. They played in the first round here last year with Serena winning 6/0 6/3. You would certainly expect Potapova to get closer than that this time. Hopefully not close enough though.
Alja Tomljanovic should have caused the biggest upset of the event by some but from 5/2 up in the decider against Simon Halep she lost the next five games and the match. The Romanian went into solid mode and sadly Tomljanovic couldn’t get over the line. It’s a matchup that has caused Halep problems in the past and irrespective of how well she played from 2-5, this shows you can get at her on the faster surface. Two high profile names that went out were Petra Kvitova and Bianca Andreescu. Kvitova struggled massively with the heat in Melbourne against Sorana Cirstea and Andreescu, probably unsurprisingly lost to Su-Wei Hsieh. Imagine having 15 months off the tour and then you have Su-Wei mixing it up and giving you a look at every different angle. Nightmare.
That was another impressive performance from Naomi Osaka. This time Caroline Garcia was put to the sword. She says she has been working on her return a lot in the offseason and that looks to be paying strong dividends. Interestingly Garcia was quoted as saying “her serve is as impressive as Serena’s in today’s game.” If anything shows the level we are talking here, then this is it. Ons Jabeur will be an even bigger test next! Other winners today were Aryna Sabalenka, Garbine Muguruza, who played back to back nights and Sara Errani, who defeated Venus. It is amazing to think that Venus picked up an ankle injury at the end of the first set here, in addition to the pre-existing knee injury and played on. How many players will stay out there and complete the match and give their opponent the win when they can barely move? Not many, great sportsmanship from Queen V.
In the men’s, Novak Djokovic was extended by Frances Tiafoe. There were some key moments here and it wasn’t until Djokovic won the third set breaker that he started to pull away in the fourth. It probably works out well for the Serb who will count this as a match that gets him into the event. Nole said that these are the quickest the courts have been in Melbourne for 15 years, that really does suggest it is fast! Dom Thiem beat Dominik Koepfer in straights. This was much better from him but Koepfer didn’t really help his cause as the match wore on. It sets up a prime time match with Nick Kyrgios next. Kyrgios put pay to my outside tip for the quarter in Ugo Humbert but it didn’t look like it was going to be that way, with Humbert leading by two sets to one and a break in the fourth. Good fight from Nick who mentioned in his on-court interview about his ‘dark thoughts’. I hope he gives Thiem a decent match, if he serves really well, he will have a squeak for sure!
Denis Shapovalov gave Bernie Tomic a bit of a going over but the Aussie said he did all that could be asked of him considering where he is at right now. Former Davis Cup captain and now commentator John Fitzgerald said that Bernie was not trying. Someone must be wrong, Bernie always looks like he’s not trying even when he is. Pablo Carreno Busta survived a serving fest from Jiri Vesely to win in four sets, 36 aces for the Czech. Adrian Mannarino played really well in losing just seven games against Miomir Kecmanovic. Other winners today were Sacha Zverev (straight sets!!!), Felix Auger-Aliassime, Milos Raonic, Grigor Dimitrov and Diego Schwartzman, who cruised past Alexandre Muller. Stan Wawrinka lost in five sets to Marton Fucsovics though. The Hungarian had taken a two sets to love lead but Stan was 6-1 up in the final set breaker and had 3 match points at 9-6.
Andy Del Potro