Observations from the first three days of the Australian Open:
Wozniacki d. Lisicki, 2-6 6-3 6-3 (first round)
Sabine Lisicki started this match very well, going for big returns and groundstrokes off both sides, making most of them, and dictating nearly every point. Caroline Wozniacki started passively, standing too far behind the baseline and not hitting with enough depth.
But in the second set, Lisicki somehow completely lost the precision she possessed in the first. As Lisicki’s errors mounted, Wozniacki found greater depth and took opportunities to move inside the baseline, increasing the pressure on Sabine. Caro took a 5-1 lead in the set.
Then Lisicki seemed to refocus and regain some accuracy. She broke Wozniacki’s serve, and threatened to break again. With a bit of luck, Caro just managed to serve out the set. Lisicki kept firing, and took a 3-0 lead in the third. Then, suddenly she once again lost her ability to hit inside the court. Just by keeping the ball in play, Wozniacki won six straight games to secure her first victory over Lisicki since 2008, when both were ranked outside the top-50.
In the on-court interview immediately after the match, Wozniacki’s voice shook. In contrast to the joy players normally feel after such a win, Caro seemed traumatized by the match and relieved to have escaped defeat. A few minutes later in the hallway under the stadium, Barbara Schett interviewed her for the Eurosport TV network, asking how she was able to turn the match around. “I don’t know,” she replied.
Watson d. Pervak, 4-6 7-6(7) 6-2 (second round)
This was a tense match composed of long, physical points, although both players were unusally erratic. In particular, Heather Watson often went for excessive angles in the first set, trying to keep the ball away from Ksenia Pervak, but missing wide of the court. Watson repeatedly screamed in frustration with her inability to achieve her usual accuracy.
For most of the first two sets, Pervak hit with greater power and seemed (narrowly) in control. But she was too reluctant to exploit her advantage by moving forward, often retreating back behind the baseline after Watson offered her short balls. Pervak’s shot selection was also too predictable, especially when volleying. Watson exploited this on several critical points in the second and third sets, putting herself in the perfect position to hit winning passing shots on points Pervak had been dictating.
Pervak had three match points in the tiebreak, but her tentative serving and court positioning allowed Watson to save them all and take the set, with the help of a couple of gutsy groundstrokes that landed in the corners.
Late in the second set, Watson had shown signs of exhaustion, doubling over between points due to the physical and emotional exertion the match had extracted from her. Pervak should have exploited this by promptly renewing the pressure in the third set, but instead took a long bathroom break. This gave Watson a chance to rest in the shade, ice herself down, and soak in the enthusiastic chants of the crowd, which were almost unanimously in her favor. Watson started the third set with much better aggression and precision, while Pervak became much more erratic. Watson broke twice to take a 3-0 lead, but by this time her thigh was cramping. Pervak found her focus again and fought on even terms for the rest of the match, but was unable to break back. With more confidence in her shots and needing to shorten points, Watson hit enough winners to complete the comeback.
Janowicz d. Bolelli, 7-5 6-4 6-3(first round)
Jerzy Janowicz started this match poorly, showing little of the variety and touch he employed in his breakout run to the Paris final last year. Perhaps more comfortable playing indoors, here he seemed reluctant to employ slices and lobs that would hang in the wind, and made tentative errors when he did. Hitting freely and dictating the majority of points, the journeyman Simone Bolelli broke Janowicz’s serve, took the lead, and threatened to break Janowicz again to take the first set.
But Janowicz played courageously with his back against the wall, producing excellent serves and blasting precise winners from extremely defensive positions to get himself out of trouble and break back. Firing himself up with an excess of fistpumping and primal screaming, his confidence surged, and he employed more of the unpredictable drop shots that frustrated his opponents in Paris. Bolelli faded, and Janowicz completed the rest of the match without major difficulty.
As chronicled by The Changeover’s Juan José Vallejo, Janowicz’s next match against Somdev Devvarman was another emotional roller coaster, precipitated in that case by a disputed line call that went against Janowicz on his set point in the first-set tiebreak. Janowicz received a code violation warning for his extended loud argument with umpire Marija Cicak, and went on to lose the first two sets, before recovering to win, 6-7(10) 3-6 6-1 6-0 7-5. If Janowicz wants to fulfill his potential for elite-level success and popularity with fans, he will need to become more emotionally stable on court.
Savinykh d. Cibulkova, 7-6(6) 6-4
Zheng J. d. Stosur, 6-4 1-6 7-5 (technically an upset, but not unexpected)
Keys d. Paszek, 6-2 6-1
Flipkens d. Zakopalova, 6-1 6-0
Donskoy d. Youzhny, 3-6 7-6(4) 6-2 3-6 6-3
Date-Krumm d. Petrova, 6-2 6-0
Tsurenko d. Pavlyuchenkova, 7-5 3-6 7-5
Suarez Navarro d. Errani, 6-4 6-4
Beck d. Shvedova, 6-2 6-7(7) 6-3
Chan d. Hantuchova, 6-1 1-6 6-1
Pervak d. Barthel, 7-5 2-6 6-4
Kumkhum d. Arvidsson, 7-6(5) 6-4
Hampton d. U. Radwanska, 6-2 6-4
Vekic d. Hlavackova, 6-1 6-2
An. Kuznetsov d. Mónaco, 7-6(3) 6-1 6-1 (Mónaco tweeted after the match that he needs more time to recover from his hand injury)
Nieminen d. Haas, 7-6(3) 4-6 6-3 4-6 8-6
Kavcic d. Bellucci, 6-3 6-1 6-3
Brands d. Klizan, 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-4
Brian Baker retired while leading Sam Querrey, 7-6(2) 1-1 in their second-round match. The injury turned out to be a torn meniscus in Baker’s knee, which according to his agent could keep him off the tour for about four months.
Serena Williams rolled her ankle during her 6-0 6-0 first-round defeat Tuesday of Edina Gallovits-Hall. She had the ankle retaped heavily, and limped her way through the rest of the match. On Wednesday, she moved her scheduled practice to an indoor court away from public view. USA Today’s Doug Robson reported that she “moved cautiously” but “pretty well” during the practice.
Tobias Kamke retired with a shoulder injury from his second-round match after losing the first two sets to Stan Wawrinka.