By Dave Gertler
(January 6, 2014) SYDNEY – American veteran Bethanie Mattek-Sands is fast becoming one of the stories of the 2014 Apia International tennis tournaemnts. After demolishing three opponents in qualifying, and now one in the main draw today, her next opponent will be defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska.
Radwanska was at her first all-access media appearance at Olympic Park Tennis Centre. She was surprised at the upset, saying she had expected her second round opponent would be Eugenie Bouchard, whose serve – followed by the rest of her game – had collapsed earlier in the day in sweltering conditions, against Mattek-Sands.
Bouchard’s loss was one of three remarkable upsets on Monday. High-profile Serbian former No.1 Jelena Jankovic lost 4-6, 2-6 to Ekaterina Makarova, unseeded against the fourth seed Jankovic. Popular Romanian Sorana Cirstea only won five games in two sets on an outside court against Bulgarian qualifier Tsvetana Pironkova.
With big names like Bouchard, Cirstea, Alize Cornet, Svetlana Kuznetsova as well as Aussie hope Jarmila Gajdosova all losing in the first round to qualifiers, hot weather conditions seem to be playing a part, as players are needing time to adjust to the heat. In fact, of the six women who had to tough it out in qualifying, only two have fallen in their main draw matches.
Two players who immediately adjusted to the conditions were Angelique Kerber and Dominika Cibulkova, who pushed each other throughout two highly entertaining sets, which Kerber won 7-6, 7-5, in from of an appreciative Grandstand Court crowd. Later in the afternoon on the same court, Caroline Wozniacki didn’t need matchplay practice to beat lucky loser Julia Georges 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.
Frenchman Nicolas Mahut will be required need to adjust quickly to his best tennis if he wants to withstand the big weapons off the racquet of a match-fit Ryan Harrison, who won his third round qualifier today against Alex Bogomolov Jr in a thrilling three-setter on Court 5.
On that same court on Tuesday, Harrison’s American compatriot Madison Keys, who shut down Simona Halep in the first round, will face wildcard Ajla Tomljanovic. Five out of eight women’s round of 16 matches on Tuesday will feature Americans. Mattek-Sands and Christina McHale will be amongst the featured action on Ken Rosewall Arena, facing the top two seeds, Radwanska and Petra Kvitova.
Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering the Australian summer of tennis for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his Twitter updates from the tournament @TennisNewsTPN, follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler, read his blog, and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .