Defending Champ Kenin is Out – Day 4 Australian Open 2021.

The defending champion is out. It probably doesn’t come as that much of a surprise when you think that Kenin has been saying she has a groin problem and she wasn’t great in her opener. Couple that with the fact the Kaia Kanepi is playing well and loves a fast surface and you have an upset on your hands. What was interesting was that Kenin admitted she was also feeling nervous about being the defending champion, as it’s obviously not a situation she has faced until now. I always think when a player at that stage of their career can admit things like this, it will only serve her well in the future.

Ash Barty has shown she is human again, it was far from flawless today after her impeccable form of late. There are two ways of looking at this. (1) She was never going to continue playing like that, match after match and she just needs to get the job done sometimes. (2) She was playing a fellow Aussie and that can bring different dimensions and pressures to the court. Basically, is she starting to feel the heat? It is too early to make that call at the moment but I always feel that the Aussies struggle in their home event due to the pressure. It one of the reasons why I didn’t put her up in my preview as one of the tips. Karolina Pliskova avenged last weeks defeat to Danielle Collins. This wasn’t a great standard and I was very disappointed with how cheaply the American dropped serve throughout the match, having put her up as one of my tips. Elina Svitolina played well in beating Coco Gauff, Gauff actually said she had played better than she did against Osaka last year. I am still expecting a blip from the Ukrainian somewhere.

Other winners today included Elise Mertens, Jennifer Brady and Donna Vekic, who are all safely through to the third round. The latter two were particularly impressive in their wins over Madison Brengle and Nadia Podoroska respectively. Mertens was a little lucky in the first set against Lin Zhu before easing away in the second. Jessica Pegula also progressed after dropping just the solitary game against Sam Stosur! Belinda Bencic won a scrappy encounter against Svetlana Kuznetsova and Anett Kontaveit ended the British Ladies interest in the event by beating Heather Watson. Heather can be pleased with her performance here having said that. She took the opening set and made the Estonian Work for it with some attacking play of her own but eventually came up just short.

The matchups looked kind for Rafa and Daniil today and so it proved. Michael Mmoh and Roberto Carballes Baena were always going to struggle, especially the Spaniard who certainly produces his best results on the clay. The really good news is that Cameron Norrie beat Roman Safiullin, this was moved indoors to the MCA after a rain delay. He will now have a crack at Nadal in the third round. We aren’t expecting too much but it would be nice to see Nozza give a good account of himself. The Brit was quoted a saying “it will be a great match, great experience for me, I can’t wait to get out there and show him what I’ve got.” Norrie was a little flat at the start today but that was only to be expected after his first-round win over Evo. Medvedev will play Filip Krajinovic next, the Serb has just pulled out of the doubles with an abdominal/back injury.

Stefanos Tsitsipas had to keep a lid on it against Thanasi Kokkinakis. Kokkinakis played a really good match and Stefanos did well having missed a match point in the fourth to reset and get the break in the decider. It has been a worry before as things have been known to throw him off at times, so this was pleasing to get through an awkward match. Especially with the home crowd playing their part in lifting Kokkinakis, he can be a very dangerous opponent as we know and had it not been for injuries we would have seen a lot more from him.

Other winners in the men’s were Andrey Rublev, Karen Khachanov and Matteo Berrettini. Rublev and Berrettini continued their fine form to the start of the year but today wasn’t stellar, more about getting the job done. It was Khachanov who posted the impressive performance, far too powerful for Ricardas Berankis. Alex De Minaur was solid with a straight-sets win over the Wiley campaigner that is Pablo Cuevas but Borna Coric is out. The twenty-second seed got off to a slow, erratic start against Mackenzie McDonald and the forehand in particular never really recovered. Finally, Fabio Fognini had a bust-up with his pal, Salvatore Caruso, where having won the deciding set breaker 14-12, Fognini accused his mate of being ‘lucky’ (despite winning). An argument on-court ensued and Fabio later apologised. Classic Fabio!!

Andy Del Potro

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