For years Monica Puig had been touted as the next best thing in women's tennis. She was a flat hard hitting Puerto Rican who started her own Twitter campaign called #PicaPower. Puig had confidence in spades but no results with which to back up that confidence. Her ground strokes while good, were for me the same old, same old that we saw every day from every player who thought they were the next big thing.
Monica Puig pulling the Lisicki and celebrating like she won a Grand Slam in the 2nd Round #AusOpen https://t.co/EhIj6odsIv— Andrew Jerell Jones (@sluggahjells) January 20, 2016
I have not seen Puig hit a ball in quite some time and her ranking had fallen so low that she started playing qualifying to get into the big events. This year, Puig seems to have found a little something because she has been playing brilliant tennis this year.
Her season started in Auckland where she lost in qualifying to Tamira Paszek (another player who is seemingly rising from the ashes). Puig then went on to Sydney where she made it through qualifying before losing in the final of the event to Svetlana Kuznetsova. Today, for the first time in her career, Puig is through to the third round of the Australian Open and she did so by saving match points against Krystina Pliskova. Her next opponent is Aga Radwanska. Good luck with that Monica.
The State of the WTA is good.
Kasatkina, Gavrilova, Gasparyan, Kulichkova, Bencic, Konta, Konjuh. These are the players who made tennis fans sit up and take notice at this year's Australian Open. Some of them did not quite make it through the early rounds, but their hard hitting and fearlessness have signalled that the future of the WTA is well and truly in capable hands.
Yesterday I said that Bondarenko might cause Sveta some problems. She did more than that. She has broken that section of the draw wide open by taking out the Sydney champion in straight sets. Phenomenal performance from Bondarenko. Carla Suarez-Navarro struggled against the hard hitting Sakkari but prevailed in 3 tough sets. CSN will need to clean up her game and be more forceful on court if she has hopes of making a run at this event.
Day 4 sees the bottom half of the draw playing with some tasty matches on the schedule
Sevastova v. Ivanovic (Ivanovic)
Flipkens v. Muguruza (Muguruza)
Georges v. Pliskova (Pliskova)
Azarenka v. Kovinic (Azarenka)
Keys v. Shvedova (Shvedova)
Kerber v. Dulgheru (Kerber)
Jankovic v. Siegemund (Jankovic)
Show Court 2
Osaka v. Svitolina (Svitolina)
Cornet v. Zhang (Cornet)
Show Court 3
Strycova v. King (Strycova)
Show Court 6
Beck v. Bacsinszky (Bacsinszky)
Makarova v. Maria (Makarova)
Show Court 8
Konta v. Zheng (Konta)
Allertova v. Lisicki (Allertova)
Brengle v. Larsson (Brengle)
Lepchenko v. Arruabuena (Lepchenko)
In her first match of this tournament, Azarenka doled out a double bagel against a really good opponent who failed to bring her game to the big stage. Azarenka was fully focused, a bit over hyped and seemed to have peaked as if she was playing the final. As an athlete, that might be a good thing for a match, but this tournament lasts all of 2 weeks. Most players while they are focused tend to try to manage themselves while on court. In her second match Azarenka goes up against Kovinic, a player who is not afraid of the spotlight. The match will be played in the heat of Australia and the fitness of Vika will be tested. Yesterday the roof was closed for the first matches of the day. Perhaps the same might happen for Day 4 matches. In all I don't think we will be seeing a double bagel today. While Vika will come through she will have a much harder time with this opponent.
Flipkens had to fight tooth and nail against the hard hitting Lucic-Barroni. She came through in 3 tough sets. Muguruza cruised through her first match but struggled a but struggled a bit during key moments. Flipkens will be using that back hand slice to keep the ball low and cause Muguruza problems. The serve will also be a factor as Flipkens has not been serving very well. However, after battling through Lucic-Barroni, Muguruza will have a battle on her hands, or Flipkens could go off limply into the night.
Records are meant to be broken. That being said, tennis records are one of those records that always leaves me scratching my head, not because I don't think players who have set those records have accomplished nothing, but because I think when you set a record it should be significant in and of itself. For example, Steffi Graf won the Golden Slam. This is something that has not been done since (for those who came in late, a Golden Slam is when you win all 4 Grand Slams and an Olympic gold medal). No one has been able to do that either before or after.
Last season, Karolina Pliskova set a record for the most aces on Tour, beating people like Serena, Venus, Lisicki etc. However, Pliskova's body of work left a lot to be desired. Of her 8 finals appearances last year, Pliskova was only able to win one title and that was in her native Czech Republic (and she struggled to win that one). For me, what is the use of having a big serve, so big that you are setting records with it, and yet it keeps failing you at the important moments?
Why am I on a rant on this? Today, Pliskova's twin, Krystina hit the most aces in a single match (setting a record). You would think that she would have won that match. Nope, her serve was broken and Puig served out the match and is on to the third round. In the same breath, Sabine Lisicki, holder of the fastest serve recorded for a woman, hit that serve in a match against Ana Ivanovic in Stanford. She lost the match. Its the same issue I have with match wins. Kerber sometimes has the most match wins in single season but her body of work, i.e the results to match those wins are just not there. Would it be better to put in your best effort at a few tournaments, winning titles, rather than play almost every event, notching up wins, but not being able to cross the finish line when it matters most?
Sound off in the comments or hit me up on Twitter with your views.