AO 2.5 - The Final 64 and More
=NIGHT 2 NOTES=
...in the dual night sessions on Laver and Court Arenas, #3 Aga Radwanska and #22 Dasha Gavrilova record a pair of three-set victories to wrap up a 1st Round that saw seven seeds fall (a decent-sized number, but far less than the twelve sent packing in the first two days in '16). Eleven Bannerettes, six Hordettes, and five Germans have advanced into the 2nd Round. Gavrilova's win even gives the Aussies three woman still standing, a nice rebound after the home nation went 1-8 in the opening around a year ago and the only Australia-born woman in the 2nd Round (Johanna Konta) was actually representing Great Britain.
Last night on Laver, Radwanska extended her career record over Tsvetana Pironkova to 12-3 (4-1 in majors) in their third three-setter in their last four meetings, winning 6-1/4-6/6-1, ending things with an ace...
And giving the gift of another highlight reel shot for the masses...
Of course, we've seen these tweeners about a million times now, so they're sort of losing their luster as a novelty. But it's good to note that Radwanska is not often commended for her under-the-radar athleticism, and is more respected for her great hands and feel, intelligence and (sometimes magical) artistic skill. But, I mean, she's been pulling off this sort of shot for a few years now, and you're not even going to pull it off ONCE unless you've got admirable athletic genes.
Meanwhile, on MCA, "The Dasha Show" returned to primetime, with last year's Round of 16-making Insta-Aussie-Star Gavrilova winning a 3-6/6-4/7-5 contest, breaking free late from a locked-up match in the 3rd to down big-hitting, rangy Brit Naomi Broady, who fired nineteen aces and zero DF, but still found a way to lose. Broady is sort of the women's version of the old Ivo Karlovic -- but not the "older" Ivo, who has actually improved his ENTIRE game over the years, and won a 5-hour plus marathon on Day 2 -- as she has one stunning weapon, but the rest of her game often doesn't offer enough support to get victories.
Here are Broady and Gavrilova from last year, showing their height difference, but also, in a way, highlighting the differences in their respective games, too:
As Gavrilova noted, since she's not going to hit anyone off the court, she's prone to such long matches which require 3rd set rallies and drama. And, as she told us last year, she's "good from behind." This time around, she was even proud of her composure, which eventually did her in vs. Carla Suarez-Navarro in the Round of 16 a year ago, when she gradually melted down after taking the opening set at love vs. the Spanish vet.
Daria Gavrilova was proud of her composure tonight after falling behind. Joked with her coaches, “I’m a grown up woman now!” #AusOpen— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) January 17, 2017
Next up for Gavrilova will be Ana Konjuh. Sounds like another primetime episode of "The Dasha Show" to me... though the ending might not be quite the same as was what occurred on Night 2.
Meanwhile, the 1st Round round is complete (and in TWO days... do you hear that, other slams that drag things out even longer?). And with that come a few awards.
CRASH & BURN: #4 Simona Halep's 1st Round loss, her second consecutive in Melbourne, was the BIG upset of the opening days of this AO. Once again, she'll have to find a way to overcome the disappointment and re-join the '17 schedule as if nothing of significance happened for her Down Under, and hope that her knee will cooperate as the season wears on.
It's Halep's second straight AO "C&B" award, matching Sam Stosur's 2012-13 "reign."
NATION OF POOR SOULS: They weren't a great opening two days for women's tennis in Romania. While others, technically, performed worse -- 1-5 Japan, 1-4 Italy, 1-3 Ukraine, 0-3 Belgium -- the Swarmettes' 2-4 mark was more noteworthy. Not only was Halep the First Seed Out, but Patricia Maria Tig posted the First Loss in main draw play, and (at this slam, just barely) unseeded Monica Niculescu fell in three sets to a huffing-and-puffing Anna Blinkova in the Russian's slam debut.
UPSET QUEENS: This one goes to the U.S. women, as the Bannerettes orchestrated the oustings of three of the seven seeds eliminated in the 1st Round. Varvara Lepchenko knocked out #19 Kiki Bertens, Nicole Gibbs defeated #25 Timea Babos and CoCo Vandeweghe (I won't say anything) advanced past #15 Roberta Vinci, leaving it all (literally) on the court behind her. A pair of qualifiers (Julia Boserup d. Schiavone, Jen Brady d. Zanevska) also advanced, and Samantha Crawford took out Week 1 Auckland champ (and countrywoman) Lauren Davis.
REVELATION LADIES: I'll hold off on this one, but there are three leading contenders through the opening round. Croatia is 3-0, with Konjuh and Donna Vekic posting wins, and veteran Mirjana Lucic-Baroni getting her first AO MD victory since her 1998 debut. Meanwhile, Australia has three women in the 2nd Round (Gavrilova, Ash Barty & Jaimee Fourlis) and saw the debut of Destanee Aiava, and Russia has placed six Hordettes into the Final 64 without the presence of Maria Sharapova and Daria Kasatkina's 1st Round loss.
The "Zombie Queen" honor looks to be pretty much wrapped up by Lucie Safarova after her nine saved MP vs. Yanina Wickmayer, but last year's practice of holding off until making it official (say, when the Round of 16 is set) will be continued here. Still, it'd take something REALLY big to change course.
*AO "NATIONS OF POOR SOULS"*
2012 GBR (0-4 1st Rd.; all on Day 1)
2013 AUS (1-6 in 1st Rd., 1-7 overall)
2014 ITA (top-seeded #7 Errani & #12 Vinci out 1st)
2015 CHN (year after Li champ, 1-5 in 1st Round)
2016 AUS (1-8 in 1st Rd.; only AUS-born in 2nd is a Brit)
2017 ROU (2-4 1st Loss, 1st Seed Out, 2 Top 32 defeats)
*AO "CRASH & BURN" LOSERS*
2008 Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS (3rd Rd.)
2009 Venus Williams, USA (2nd Rd.)
2010 Maria Sharapova, RUS (1st Rd.)
2011 Jelena Jankovic, SRB (2nd Rd.)
2012 Samantha Stosur, AUS (1st Rd.)
2013 Samantha Stosur, AUS (2nd Rd.)
2014 Petra Kvitova, CZE (1st Rd.)
2015 Ana Ivanovic, SRB (1st Rd.)
2016 Simona Halep, ROU (1st Rd.)
2017 Simona Halep, ROU (1st Rd.)
*AO "UPSET QUEENS" WINNERS*
2007 Czech Republic
2017 United States