It was not to be for Heather Watson, as she lost in out a second meeting with Tamara Zidansek in as many weeks. The first set was tight, with a spate of service breaks with Watson clinging on in the set to force a tie-break.
A brief mini-break lead for Watson was quickly eradicated as Zidansek forged ahead. She was able to level once more before Zidansek edged ahead to seal the first set.
Watson was first to break in the second set but was pegged straight back. Watson repeated With Zidansek serving form the match, Watson mounted one last charge and broke back, but could not hold her serve to bow out in the second round for the third year in a row.
After a five set epic Andy Murray win over Nikoloz Basilashvili there were such high hopes that he would be able to achieve one of his goals – to go on a deep run at the Slams. But Murray looked strangely flat-footed against qualifier Taro Daniel.
The Japanese player pressed Murray who was playing defensively throughout the match, against someone who could match him stroke for stroke. Daniel’s persistence paid off for an early break in the first set, and although Murray broke back to level, he was broken back immediately for Daniel to hold that advantage to the first set.
The second set saw a break at the same point and this time there was no brief resurgence for Murray, in the hope of conserving some energy for a possible five-setter.
The start of the third set saw hopes rise of the comeback everyone wanted to see with an early break, but any hope was quickly quelled with another Daniel break back, and a increasingly frustrated looking Murray was broken once more at the end of the set, with Daniel serving his way not the third round of the Australian Open.
As reported in AusOpen.org, Murray said of his performance: “I’m really, really disappointed. Very frustrated. Tough loss for me, that’s for sure.”
He is open to returning to the Australian Open next year, but only if he can improve on elements of his game over the coming year, having overcome two hip operations, illness and niggling injuries.
“Not if I do what I did tonight too often this season. This is a really important year for me for a number of reasons, and I want to perform well in the big events. Tonight is not good enough in that respect,” he continued.
“Making second round of slams is not something I find particularly motivating.”
Again, high things were expected of reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu after coming through her first Slam three-setter against Sloane Stephens. Towards the end of that match, she was struggling with a blister on her hand, and after her customary quick start, it was clear that it was troubling her again.
A medical timeout to tape it all together did not help as it was immediately clear her serve and forehand (core elements of her game) were immediately affected. Initially Danke Kovinic capitalised on the weaker output, breaking the Brit three times in a row. Raducanu claimed one of the breaks back, but Kovinic broke for a fourth time to claim the first set.
Relying only on a slice forehand to stay in the points, Raducanu seemed to just smile and accept her fate, and with that suddenly Kovinic seemed to panic – hitting to the backhand side that was working just fine. Raducanu broke at the start of the second set and although Kovinic levelled for 4-4, Raducanu broke back to hold on for the second set.
Into the decider, Raducanu seemed to struggle with her backhand, which had been so solid throughout the match, with Kovinic coming out on top of a flurry of three breaks of serve.
That final advantage was enough to take the Slovenian into the third round for the first time.
After the match, Raducanu said in her press conference: “There were some people in my team that maybe didn’t want me to play,” she told reporters as she had not been able to hit forehands and serves in practice.
“I thought it was a pretty good learning experience for me. I discovered tools about myself and my game that I didn’t know I had before, that slice forehand is not so bad, and I have some sort of hand skills. That was a positive surprise.
“To get that second set with basically one shot, I can’t believe it really.
“I know that I can pull myself out of deep situations. Because I’m still young, I feel like I can learn a backhand, I can learn some sort of tactics, but it’s quite hard to learn or teach someone that fight and grittiness to hang in there when things are pretty much all against you. So, I’m quite proud of that.”
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