Home Hotel service Sabalenka survives despite service interruption but Kontaveit collapses | Australian Open 2022

Sabalenka survives despite service interruption but Kontaveit collapses | Australian Open 2022

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As Aryna Sabalenka reached the baseline for her Australian Open second round match against China’s Wang Xiynu, it didn’t take long for her to realize it would be yet another day without her serve.

Double faults came immediately and with great variety: a little long, barely wide, back fence, photo pit. She served six in her first service game and she had nine after her second. His troubles were so predictable that the stat keepers were ready: at one point in the first set, Sabalenka had attempted 117 seconds of serve in 2022; 57 ended in a double fault.

During the first weeks of the new season, Sabalenka’s service issues were one of the more curious storylines. Her high-risk game always generated a high number of errors, but in the final weeks of last season, she completely lost control. She ended her 2021 campaign with a miserable streak of serving performances – and losses – at the WTA Finals. In her first two games this season, both losses, she served a total of 38 double faults.

And yet, on a day of upheaval in the women’s draw, and in front of an ambitious young player looking for a career-best victory, Sabalenka beat Wang 1-6, 6-4, 6-2 to reach the third round.

Last year, Sabalenka’s success was one of the defining aspects of the season. She won two titles, made many deep runs, then reached her first two Grand Slam semi-finals at Wimbledon and the US Open. Although she has learned to harness her power and record consistent results, demolishing the ball remains her modus operandi. It was effective enough for her to finish the season with a career ranking of No. 2 in the world.

In recent matches, Sabalenka had let her service issues consume her. She spent her first-round defeat in Adelaide resorting to anguished underarm serves and gesturing to her team. But here she has simply focused on performing all the other aspects of her game which continue to thrive.

“I already had a lot of experience playing off duty,” she said. “I kept saying to myself, ‘You have enough shots to win the game even if you can’t serve.’ So I think that kind of mentality helped me stay in the game and find my serve.

6 seed Anett Kontaveit cuts a disgruntled figure on her way to a second-round exit. Photography: Robert Prange/Getty Images

As she pushed, Sabalenka slowly found the rhythm. At the end of the third set, she was erasing her second serve, her average speed rising from 91mph to a whopping 103mph in the third set and earning points on her own. Of his 19 double faults in the game, 12 came in the explosive first set. She landed a second-serve ace at 101mph in the final game for good measure.

In the third round, Sabalenka will face Marketa Vondrousova, the 31st seed. She had the resilience to carry on and keep her place in the draw and on Saturday she will have another opportunity to rediscover her best tennis.

While Sabalenka survived, on Thursday the bottom half of the women’s draw was trashed in five short minutes after two tournament favorites were sabotaged. Clara Tauson, a 19-year-old former Australian Open women’s champion, rose to produce the best match of her young career against one of the in-form players in the women’s game, beating the sixth seed Anett Kontaveit 6-2, 6-4.

Tauson is 6ft tall, she already has one of the heaviest forehands in the game and she spent the game dictating from the baseline. As Kontaveit tried to avoid Tauson’s forehand, the Dane showed her attacking potential on both wings by simply dismantling the Estonian with her flat, searing backhand. “Today we had a plan that I didn’t really follow because I felt really good there, so I bet everything on my shots,” she said with a smile.

As Kontaveit left the court in defeat, Garbiñe Muguruza was also on the brink. Rather than a fearless young upstart, she fell 6-3, 6-3 to Alize Cornet, a French veteran who has been at the top of the sport for the past decade and a half.

Alize Cornet was in impressive form in her win over Garbiñe Muguruza
Alize Cornet was in impressive form in her win over Garbiñe Muguruza. Photography: Shutterstock

Cornet has now played 60 consecutive Grand Slams since January 2007, two appearances shy of the women’s record held by Ai Sugiyama, and on her 32nd birthday against Muguruza she scored one of the best wins of her career. Afterwards, she revealed that she wasn’t sure if she would continue after this year.

“Sometimes you lose, for example, with match point,” she said. “You go back to your hotel room and you’re like, ‘What’s the point of doing all this?’ It’s not an easy job. You’re on the road 10 months out of 12 so you never see your family, it’s really hard to have a love life. All these things around tennis complicate things. But the love of the game has always been stronger.

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For Cornet, her lack of certainty about her future was part of her motivation when she entered the Rod Laver Arena on Thursday morning and beat one of the top five players at a Grand Slam tournament for the second time. of his life.

“I think today the key was that I tell myself that I’m probably playing my last year. I’m not sure yet. When I walked onto the pitch I was like, ‘You know what? Enjoy just the moment because you don’t know if you’re going to come back. I think that’s what made the difference.”