Stephens d. Halep, 6-4 6-0 in Hobart
This was the first chance I’ve had this year to watch Sloane Stephens, who has been getting a lot of attention as a young talent who has raised her game to a new level. The hype is justified. Playing much more aggressively than last year and serving more effectively, Stephens jumped quickly to a 2-0 lead. Everything that happened was determined by Stephens’ racket—Halep won only two points in the first two games, via a double fault and an unforced error by Stephens.
However, the 19-year-old Stephens showed some vulnerability as Halep fought back and started reading Stephens’ serve better. With Halep running down more of Stephens’ shots and returning them hard and deep, Stephens retreated behind the baseline and made too many errors. Halep broke back and repeatedly threatened to take control of the set. Stephens held on though, and broke to take the set when Halep played a poor service game at 4-5.
In the second set, Halep seemed to decide her counterpunching approach wasn’t going to work, and started swinging even harder, aiming for the lines. This isn’t her game, and it only led to a proliferation of errors. Her confidence restored, Stephens cruised to victory.
Flipkens d. Schiavone, 2-6 6-3 7-6(3) in Hobart
This was an interesting battle between two players who don’t play like most others in the modern game, but in this match played much like each other. They spent much of the match exchanging slice backhands, each hoping to break down the other’s weaker shot, looking for opportunities to fire their stronger forehands and finish points from the net. It was a close seesaw battle, and became more dramatic in the third set, during which Schiavone twice abruptly interrupted play for bathroom breaks. Whatever the problem was, it had no clear effect on her play, as she continued hitting her shots vigorously and loudly monologuing in Italian when things weren’t going her way. Schiavone served for the match, but fell behind 0-30 when she foot-faulted on a second serve and didn’t recover. Flipkens broke back and was the slightly more consistent player from then on.
Kuznetsova d. Wozniacki, 7-6(4) 1-6 6-2 in Sydney
The first set of this match played out according to expectations, the more erratic Svetlana Kuznetsova’s advantage in power and volleying ability edging the more passive Caroline Wozniacki’s advantage in consistency and defense. Kuznetsova’s errors multiplied in the second set, especially from her forehand. But after a 10-minute break allowed due to the stifling 108°F (42°C) heat, Kuznetsova played more consistently. Wozniacki didn’t do enough to disrupt Kuznetsova’s control of the points, and at the end of the match even her usually reliable backhand failed her.
Cibulkova d. Errani, 6-2 6-1 in Sydney
Dominika Cibulkova needed a third-set tiebreak to beat Ekaterina Makarova in her second-round match, but played even better in this quarterfinal against Sara Errani than she did against Petra Kvitova in the first round. Cibulkova hit with excellent depth and much more power than Errani, while making very few errors. Errani seldom had a chance to move up to the baseline, let alone to the net, and made many more errors than usual. As in her loss to Daniela Hantuchova last week in Brisbane, Errani was unable to play with the aggressiveness she used last year to break into the top 10.
Fognini d. Dimitrov, 6-3 6-1 in Sydney
This was an extremely disappointing performance by Grigor Dimitrov after his breakout tournament in Brisbane. Fabio Fognini is a skilled player, but didn’t have to do all that much. In the second set Dimitrov looked content to slice balls in the general direction of Fognini’s court, not appearing to care much whether they landed in play or what Fognini did with them. It was a shocking contrast to the crisp, aggressive, hard-hitting game Dimitrov played to reach his first final last week.
Other Notable Upsets
Sydney, second round:
Keys d. Zheng J., 6-0 6-4
Istomin d. Verdasco, 6-3 6-3
Sydney, first round:
Zheng J. d. Stosur, 6-3 6-7(7) 6-4
Vinci d. Petrova, 7-5 7-5
Morita d. Hantuchova, 1-6 6-3 6-3
Keys d. Safarova, 6-2 6-1
Voskoboeva d. Wickmayer, 3-6 7-6(5) 6-2
Date-Krumm d. Dellacqua, 6-4 6-1
Hobart, second round:
Davis d. Cirstea, 6-1 6-3
Vesnina d. Shvedova, 4-6 6-2 6-1
Hobart, first round:
Govortsova d. Suarez Navarro, 6-2 6-1
Auckland, first round:
B. Baker d. Janowicz, 4-6 7-6(5) 6-4
Jones d. Melzer, 7-6(7) 6-2
Sijsling d. Haase, 3-6 6-3 7-5
Malisse d. Klizan, 7-6(4) 3-6 6-3
Anabel Medina Garrigues withdrew from Hobart with an abdominal injury.
Gilles Simon withdrew from Sydney with a neck injury.
Radek Stepanek retired in the first game of his second-round match in Sydney vs. Julien Benneteau. He cited an injury to an intercostal muscle—one of the muscles between the ribs.
Grega Zemlja retired due to illness during his first-round match in Auckland, with Alejandro Falla leading, 6-4 3-1.
Roberto Bautista Agut retired after three games against Ryan Harrison in his first-round match in Sydney. One report says the reason was an abdominal injury.
Juan Mónaco withdrew from the Kooyong exhibition event with a hand injury.
Jack Sock retired from his first-round match in Australian Open qualifying, with Paul Capdeville leading 6-7(4) 7-6(1) 3-1.