sports gazette

Australian Open: Women’s First Round Report Card

© FELIPE ROJAS: Maria Sharapova did not shine in her opening match
Published: 14 Jan 2014

With the first round completed, it is time for the first marks of this 2014 Australian Open. Who did look on top and who else flopped instead?

Serena Williams 9
There was a time in which the younger of the Williams sisters was faulty and unmotivated in the first rounds of slams. Certainly, this time looks gone now.
Powerful, accurate and consistent, she was simply the best player out there and even if the young Barty does not have much to hurt the world number 1, the performance looked pretty irresistible.

Heather Watson 6.5
She may have lost, but the signals from the court are positive. The illness seems long gone and her fitness looks as good as ever, her serve like never before; but the groundstrokes were a bit too shaky for her consistent and defensive style of game. The forehand especially let her down when most needed, at the end of the first and third set.
She was also fairly unlucky, because her opponent Daniela Hantuchova played one of the finest matches since she left the top ten many years ago.

Laura Robson 3
Like the game won against her opponent Kirsten Flipkens, Robson has looked unfit and terribly inconsistent. Statistics speak for her match: 32 unforced errors in 50 minutes are appalling.
Not even the wrist injury that forced her to slow down the lead up to the Australian Open can explain such a dreadful performance.

Sara Errani 4.5
Given her recent results, it was hard to predict an outstanding Australian Open from the Italian number one, but she looked like a bit player in the show of Julia Goerges.
Errani could not change her game and in the end it was the German that dictated the sorts of the match.

Date-Krumm 7.5 Bencic 8
In a match where the age difference between the two players is of 27 years you can really expect everything to happen, but in this case the outcome was superb, as much as it could have been the match of the round if it was not for Makarova-Venus Williams (see below).
The eternal Japanese player looked fit and motivated to prevail and despite the heat and the fact that Bencic could be her daughter, she was the better player on a physical level.
The young Swiss talent on the other hand was solid in her hard hitting and did not let the Japanese control the rallies by keeping her away from the net.
By the end it was all decided by a better performance on serve from the Swiss, but the overall quality was extraordinary.

Makarova 8+ Venus Williams 8
Absolutely and easily the best match of the first day –including the men’s as well- it could well have been a quarter final, such was the quality of play.
It is never easy to play a champion such as Venus Williams, especially when one has lost to her in all previous encounters (not even in your favourite slam) but Makarova managed to do something remarkable in order to achieve that win.
Venus Williams started brilliantly, but the left-handed Russian fought back and slowly reversed the match to her favour, recovering from three games down in the decider.

Petra Kvitova 4.5
The former world number two and Wimbledon champion has showed one of the worst versions of herself in the match that saw her losing to the young Thai Kumkhum.
Despite being internationally known for the inconsistency of her results, the Czech seemed to have picked a good form and fitness at the end of the past season, just to appear heavier and slower in her Australian campaign. Not the serve nor the inexperience of Kumkuhm could save her from this shocking loss, which can also be seen as a fully deserved win for the Thai, who graciously thanked the crowd for the support with a cute bow at the end of the match.

Jelena Jankovic 8
After years struggling to even stay in touch with the top 10, the former world number 1 had chosen a good form late in 2013 and contrary to Kvitova seems to be dragging it into the new year. She looked solid and surprisingly powerful off both wings.
Her opponent might have had not much to hurt her, but she did not let her any chance either, might she be the surprise of this section? She seems ready to pick up the pieces if someone else will fail.

Maria Sharapova 7
Coming back from injuries is not easy, she competed well on her first ever event pushing Serena Williams to a tiebreak, but nonetheless the Russian has looked far from impressive in her first round against Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
The Siberian was patchy and alternated moments of brilliant tennis to rough errors, especially on serve.
On the other hand, the eccentric American did not do much to make her life difficult, as she was too faulty to really put Sharapova into trouble.

Caroline Wozniacki 8
The former world number one has started her Australian Open campaign strong of two breaking news: a new coach replaced her father and she said yes to McIlroy’s proposal.
It might have been a combination of the two, but what is for sure, Wozniacki looked very well in her opening match. Against an opponent like Lino that makes one play their worst tennis, she looked composed, solid and aggressive even with the often-subpar forehand.

Victoria Azarenka 5.5
If there is a player who has mastered the art of doing barely enough to win, surely it is Azarenka.
The world number two and defending champion in Melbourne looked far from her best and as often happens with her in the early rounds of slams, she ran away thanks to sparkles of good tennis and a bit of fear from her opponent.
Swede Johanna Larsson played some brilliant tennis in the first set, but when it came to the point of serving it out, she vanished and managed to be even more atrocious than Azarenka herself.
Quite surely the Belorussian will raise her bar from round to round, but she needs to be aware that she cannot always play with fire.

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