Thursday, 22 January 2009

Australian Open 2008 Day 2 - Williams Sisters Advance, Dementieva Survives

On a sweltering day that was filled with cramping and gusty wind conditions, 2nd seed Serena Williams and her sister 6th seeded Venus Williams cruised through their matches and led the lower bracket into the second round at the 2009 Australian Open. On a day where the Women’s Draw was reduced to sixty-four survivors, there were some stellar performances and three major upsets on the back courts in Melbourne.

Perhaps the most notable upset was the fall of heavily favored 9th seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland to up and coming Ukranian, Kateryna Bondarenko. Bondarenko’s surprising 7-6, 4-6, 6-1 victory was filled with tension. By the third set, Radwanska appeared out-of shape and put forth a lackluster effort in falling to the younger Bondarenko, who has never advanced past the second round of a major tournament. Kateryna will next play the tour’s 90th ranked player, Spaniard Lino Dominguez, a 6-2, 6-2 winner over Russian youngster Ekaterina Bychkova.

The day’s second surprise came form Spain’s, Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez
who overcame 32nd seed Tamarine Tanasugarn Thailand, 6-1, 6-4. Martinez
Sanchez won 56% of her receiving points, but the key to the match was
Tamarine’s inability to hold her second serve as Martinez Sanchez won 71%
of the Thai’s second serves. Martinez Sanchez moves on to the second round
against 6’3” Akgul Amanmuradova of Uzbekistan who overcame crowd
favorite, American 17 year old star-to-be Melanie Oudin, 7-5, 6-4.

30th seeded Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak succumbed to the heat and the
aggressive ground strokes of Germany’s Sabine Lisicki, 6-4, 6-3. Wozniak often seemed over-matched in the quick match. Lisicki won an astounding 79% of her first serves.

When the day began, there were six Australian women in the bottom half of
the draw. After the day’s last match, only Samantha Stosur and Jessica
Moore were left standing. Stosur had the Melbourne crowds jumping as she
continued her tough play. In the best shape of her career, Stosur scratched a tense 7-6, 7-6 win over Czech Klara Zakopalova. German Sabine Lisicki is next for Samantha, who appears to be feeding off the gallery’s enthusiasm.

Jessica Moore defeated American 16 year old phenom Christina McHale in three hard-fought sets, 1-6, 6-3, 9-7. It was a bittersweet win for Moore as McHale seemed in control of the match until sidelined by severe leg cramps that caused a trainer’s delay in the second set. McHale showed courage but could not push off on her serve and failed to hold several key games down the wire. Moore will play Italy’s 12th seeded Flavia Pennetta, who struggled against fellow Italian Maria Santangelo 6-2, 5-7, 6-2. Pennetta converted on 74% of her first serves to take control of the match and is heavily favored over Moore in the second round.

Another German, Kristina Barrois, garnered big crowd support in her efforts to derail 4th seeded Elena Dementieva of Russia. After a tense first set 7-6 loss, Kristina exploded to a 6-2 second set win. Dementieva asserted herself early in the final set and the German could not recover losing 6-1. Melbourne was buzzing about the possible upset. Dementieva does not appear to be in her best form as she prepares for Czech winner Iveta Benesova.

All in all, the day belonged to the bracket’s superstars, Serena and Venus Williams. The sisters methodically went about their business and were gracious in victories over matched opponents.

Venus Williams has her big serve working. She overpowered German Angelique Kerber 6-3, 6-3. Kerber displayed solid ground strokes and will pose problems when her serve improves. Meanwhile, she is clearly a level below the focused elder Williams. Williams will play Spain’s Suarez Navarro in the second round.

Serena Williams left little doubt as to why she is the second seed. She took the court with much fanfare and quickly disposed of Chinese upset hopeful Meng Yuan, 6-3, 6-2. Serena will next play Argentina’s Gisela Dulko, a three set winner over Anastasiya Yakimova.

The big seeds have held during the first round. The player’s ability to manage the heat, the wind and stay focused is a large part of the Australian Open. Experience looks poised to prevail on the Women’s side of this year’s first Grand Slam.

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