Sightings from the Mountain, Thursday

Pavlyuchenkova d. Kvitova, 6-4 7-5 in Brisbane

Petra Kvitova started the match making a lot of errors, which isn’t unusual for her. Late in the first set, she started to play better, but fed too many easy balls near the middle of the court to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Pavlyuchenkova played both cleaner and more aggressive tennis than Kvitova, hitting closer to the lines. Pavlyuchenkova also looks somewhat fitter this season, and went on to beat Angelique Kerber, 7-6(3) 7-6(3).

Pervak d. U. Radwanska, 3-6 6-2 7-6(6) in Brisbane

Ksenia Pervak followed up her first-round upset of Caroline Wozniacki by edging Urszula Radwanska in a tense, thrilling slugfest. Both players’ returns were more imposing than their serves, leading each to break the other’s serve seven times during the match. Each player pummeled the ball deep towards the corners, looking to keep her opponent under pressure and create opportunities to step forward and hit winners. (Each also hit quite a few errors.) Radwanska was a bit more aggressive throughout the match, more able to create winning angles and more willing to swing for the lines early in points. But Radwanska began to look tired and make poorer decisions late in the third set, as Pervak maintained her energy and boosted her already formidable resolve.

Serving at 4-5 in the third, Pervak went down 0-40. At that point in the match, Radwanska had converted 7 of 7 break points. But Pervak toughed out all three, and saved another match point in the tiebreak (this time on Radwanska’s serve). Then Radwanska put an ill-advised drop shot into the bottom of the net and followed it with a tentative volley. Pervak took the invitation, running in to crush the ball for a passing shot that sealed the victory.

Azarenka d. Lisicki, 6-3 6-3 in Brisbane

This is a tough matchup for Sabine Lisicki. Victoria Azarenka’s return game means Lisicki can’t win as many easy service points as she’s used to, and Azarenka’s power and relentless precision make Lisicki pay for the inevitable errors that go with her hard, flat groundstrokes. But Lisicki returned and played well and made Azarenka work considerably harder for the win than the scoreline suggests. Lisicki also surprised Azarenka by adding more variations in pace and spin to her game. If she keeps building her repertoire that way, it will give Lisicki more options and help her win more matches against lesser opponents this season when her big artillery isn’t hitting its targets.

While the match revealed promising signs for Lisicki, it also showed Azarenka is in fine form to defend her number-one ranking. She went on to crush Pervak, 6-1 6-0 in the quarterfinals, setting up a widely anticipated showdown with Serena Williams.

Larsson d. Goerges, 7-5 6-7(1) 6-4 in Auckland

For the second year in a row, Julia Goerges caught a cold upon arriving in Auckland. She said it didn’t affect her play much in her first-round match against Anastasija Sevastova, but it limited her energy against Johanna Larsson in the second round. Larsson is a counterpuncher whose best results have come on clay, but she served more effectively in this match than I ever seen before. Using precise placement and kicking topspin, she made it difficult for Goerges to exploit her superior power—or even to land her groundstrokes inside the court. Unfortunately, Larsson was unable to repeat the same precision in the quarterfinals against Mona Barthel, who had little trouble hitting winners past her and prevailed, 6-2 6-1.

Other Notable Upsets

Brisbane:
Tsurenko d. Hantuchova, 6-3 6-4 (quarterfinals)
Istomin d. Hewitt, 7-5 7-5 in Brisbane (second round)
Dimitrov d. Raonic, 6-3 6-4 in Brisbane (second round)

Auckland:
Bertens d. Watson, 6-4 3-6 6-3 (second round)
Vesnina d. Shvedova, 6-2 6-3 (second round)

Shenzhen:
Zakopalova d. Bartoli, 6-3 6-2 (quarterfinals)
Niculescu d. Robson, 6-2 6-3 (second round)

Doha:
Brands d. Monfils, 6-1 7-5 (quarterfinals)
Davydenko d. Youzhny, 7-5 6-3 (second round)
Lacko d. Troicki, 6-3 7-5 (second round)
Kubot d. F. Lopez, 6-4 6-2 (first round)

Chennai:
Bedene d. Haase, 7-5 6-3 (second round)

Interesting Update on Mattek-Sands

Matt Cronin reports for 10sballs.com that Bethanie Mattek-Sands discovered last year that allergies to a large number of foods were limiting her energy and concentration. She also says she intends to focus more this season on developing her game based on lessons learned from each match, rather than on striving for particular goals based on rankings or tournament results.

Injuries

You might think that after players have had a two-month off-season, the rate of injuries would be low in the first week of the new year. You’d be wrong.

Maria Sharapova withdrew from Brisbane with an inflammation of her right collarbone. She says the problem is getting better, and she expects to be ready for the Australian Open, but just began to practice serves and overheads on a limited basis this week.

Jelena Jankovic withdrew from Shenzhen with a viral illness.

Hsieh Su-Wei withdrew from doubles in Shenzhen with a right forearm injury. She was treated for the injury during her second-round loss to Annika Beck in singles, a match in which her game conspicuously lacked its usual variation.

Kristina Mladenovic withdrew from Auckland with “wrist intersection syndrome”, or, as she described it more accessibly on Twitter, “an inflammation”.

Daniela Hantuchova withdrew from doubles in Brisbane with a hamstring injury.

Jarmila Gajdosova withdrew from doubles in Brisbane with a thigh injury.

John Isner withdrew from Hopman cup with a knee injury.

Radek Stepanek withdrew from Brisbane with an eye infection.

Jarkko Nieminen retired from his Brisbane second-round match against Alexandr Dolgopolov with a migraine.

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