On Wednesday, play continued at the WTA’s only tournament of the week, and it saw mixed fortunes for the big names in action. TTI reports from the action on the grounds as well as the players’ reactions after the matches in press.
After a difficult weekend in Fed Cup, No. 5 seed Agnieszka Radwanska faced one of the best clay court players on tour in Sara Errani to open her Stuttgart campaign. Both women played the team competition, but Errani had the advantage of playing on red clay, while the Pole was on a hard court. Their two-set match featured a lot of cat-and-mouse rallies, with the Italian’s all-court craft pitted against Radwanska’s general court smarts. Two and a half hours later, Errani was able to break Radwanska for the match after talking to her coach at the changeover.
“The second [timeout] at 5-4, he told me to be a little bit more aggressive on her second serve and that it was quite perfect what I was doing, so to keep going and that’s it,” she said.
When asked about how the weekend helped her confidence, the former French Open finalist said that she was angry after losing to Serena Williams in three sets, but thought she played a good match and helped her improve for the clay season.
By contrast, Radwanska now finds herself picking up the pieces after two difficult losses in Fed Cup after going out to Camila Giorgi in Katowice. The Pole certainly hasn’t had the easiest of seasons, and a good showing here could have helped her get off to a better start on one of her weaker surfaces.
“Now I’ll probably have one or two days’ rest then prepare properly for the clay season,” Radwanska said. “Of course, I’ll try to do my best in Madrid, it is a huge tournament and very important for me.”
A little while later, Zarina Diyas and Sabine Lisicki took to court in the first of three matches with German interest.
However, what should have been a match the partisan crowd could get behind quickly turned into a nightmare.
The World No. 19 was on the receiving end of a double bagel for the first time in her career, and was quickly dispatched – leaving the a dumbfounded Centre Court crowd in her wake.
“I can’t really say what happened. If I could explain it, I would have done it differently,” Lisicki said after the loss.
“I guess I had a blackout. I guess that happens. And we somehow have to stay positive — there are a few more tournaments coming up this year. To come here as late as Monday afternoon is a tough turnaround, no doubt about.
“But that is nothing to explain today. This is not what I’m trying to do.”
Diyas later said that the score made it look easier than it actually was. Indeed, Lisicki had game points in all but one of her service games, but the balls kept flying off of her racquet.
“Nothing worked today,” Lisicki conceded. “And I am really sorry for everyone because I received their support and love playing at home.”
It was up to Family Circle Cup winner Angelique Kerber to give the German crowd reasons to cheer up. The 27-year-old took on lucky unlucky loser, Alexa Glatch, who moved in for fellow (LL) Yulia Beygelzimer on short notice. Kerber returned particularly well against the big-serving American, and waited for lapses in her opponent’s concentration to wrap up the match in two sets, 6-2, 7-5.
“I think it wasn’t easy today, because I was not preparing to play against her,” Kerber said on the American surprise. “I got the message like three hours before the match. And I think she is a good player still, I mean it was tough to play against her because I didn’t know what to expect. She actually didn’t give me rhythm.”
Naturally, conversation turned towards tomorrow’s second round blockbuster between the home favorite, on an equally surprising seven-match winning streak, and top seed Maria Sharapova, who’s playing her first match in nearly a month.
“You know, I’m looking forward to playing against Maria tomorrow. I mean, we had like, very tough battles in the past. It’s always nice to play against her, and I will give my best.
“I think it will be very interesting match tomorrow.”
In the evening session, Belinda Bencic and Simona Halep overcame first set deficits to turn around their respective matches. First up, the young Swiss was able to avenge her first round loss to Julia Goerges in Melbourne, but had to save three match points on serve in the final set.
The 18-year-old occasionally has a tendency to let her emotions break free, but tried to remain calm today.
“I thought ‘please learn from the other matches,'” Bencic joked, visibly giddy from the hard-earned victory. “Of course, I was also emotional today, obviously! I try to learn from the matches before like against Jankovic (in Indian Wells) and Stephens (in Miami).”
Asked about another tough match on a clay court — last year’s Charleston semifinal that saw Bencic fall in a final set tiebreak to Jana Cepelova — the young Swiss laughed once more.
“Oh no, please never that one again! That was a long time ago!”
Goerges was understandably more somber post-match, and felt the match was largely on her racquet. Compared to their Australian Open encounter, she struggled to be consistent.
“That’s the problem I have with my game. If I play as solid I did in the first set, the result would probably be a 6-3, 6-3 or a 6-3, 6-4. I know she doesn’t really like playing me, but I really let her back into the match.
“And then she got stronger, too, played good rallies and we played some really really good tennis in patches. It was a fight until the end, but I shouldn’t have let it come this far. In the end she won deservedly, because she simply was able to take advantage of it.”
Halep was able to overcome an equally tough opening hurdle from Garbiñe Muguruza — a player whom she had failed to cross in two previous attempts. Early on, the Spaniard applied a lot of pressure on the Romanian, who admitted to nerves early in the match. By the second set, the World No. 3 was able to turn things around and rallied back from 0-2 down in the final set, surviving quite a few very tough games. The match-up featured some outstanding shot-making, and it’s one that ought to be repeated quickly — particularly on clay.
When asked how she approached the Spaniard’s hard, flat returns through the middle of the court, Halep explained she had to be ready extremely quickly after returning serve, in order not to be caught off guard because Muguruza hits a very strong ball.
Tomorrow, the second seed will have a day off whereas the remaining top four seeds — Sharapova, Petra Kvitova and Caroline Wozniacki — will jump into action on another day with a packed schedule.