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WTA Rewind: Highs and Lows from Day 2 of the Australian Open

Jan 14th 2014

Nibble on your bite-sized nuggets of WTA action from around the Australian Open grounds as first-round action concluded.

Match of the day:  World No. 5 Agnieszka Radwanska probably scented a swift trip to the second round when she crammed a first-set bagel down the throat of Yulia Putintseva.  It was not to be.  Refusing to accept the inevitable, Putintseva fought back into the match one pugnacious fistpump at a time.  Late in a tight second set, she proved the tougher of the two women as temperatures soared well into triple digits.  A heat break halted her momentum, allowing the favorite to catch her breath, but this former junior No. 1 forced Radwanska to work for every point and game.  We will see more of Putintseva in the future, despite her small size, if she brings this attitude to every opponent and every event.

Caroline Wozniacki

Gold star:  Caroline Wozniacki enjoyed a smooth debut under new coach Thomas Hogstedt, blitzing clay specialist Lourdes Dominguez Lino for the loss of just two games.  Hogstedt will not prove his value until Wozniacki faces opponents of greater stature, but a fast start Down Under will make the future Mrs. McIlroy feel even more optimistic about their partnership. 

Silver star:  Far more impressive at non-majors than majors last year, Simona Halep would complete her emergence by proving that she can shine on the grandest of stages.  The world No. 11 took her first step toward that goal on Tuesday by routing her first opponent of the Australian Open.  A favorable draw offers Halep an opportunity on which she needs to pounce.

Winning ugly:  Under the scorching Melbourne heat, world No. 2 Victoria Azarenka should have counted herself fortunate to escape in straight sets.  The two-time defending champion found some semblance of her range as the match progressed, but Azarenka started in extremely uneven form.  Her opponent, Johanna Larsson, had won only one main-draw match at the WTA level since July.  Nevertheless, Larsson served for the first set not once but twice before faltering.  Azarenka slogged to the US Open final despite similarly indifferent form in New York last fall, so her fans should not despair.

Passing the torch:  As one Italian fades, another rises.  Former Roland Garros champion Francesca Schiavone exited uneventfully to Dominika Cibulkova in what must be the twilight of her career.  On the other hand, the fiery Camila Giorgi continued her momentum from a second-week run at the US Open.  Giorgi departs from the usual Italian mold of finesse and counterpunching with an aggressive mentality that should reap rewards on the faster surface in Melbourne this year.

Garbine Muguruza

Hottest hand:  Sidelined by surgery for the second half of 2013, Garbine Muguruza has leaped back into battle better than ever.  The Spanish No. 2 captured her first career title in Hobart (as a qualifier!) last week, and she took down a seeded opponent in Kaia Kanepi on Tuesday.  Kanepi had won a set from Maria Sharapova in Brisbane this month, so she brought strong form to Melbourne as well.  But their three-set rollercoaster ended with the youngster securing her 11th win in 12 matches this year. 

Biggest windfall:  After just 10 minutes on the court, Polona Hercog retired from her first-round match against Alize Cornet.  Hercog then collected a first-round loser’s prize money of $30,000 .  Not a bad job if you can get it.

Question of the day:  Should the shaky starts by Radwanska and Azarenka give dark horses hope of derailing their projected quarterfinal?