Monday, 18 January 2016

Day One - Gavrilova v Hradecka

Newly adopted Australian Daria ("Dasha") Gavrilova, fresh from her Hopman Cup success, and a fulfilling 2015 which saw her rise in the rankings to 39, drew a tough first round opponent in the initial Aus  Open 2016 match on Margaret Court Arena.

Lucie Hradecka from the Czech Republic has been around the tour for a decade, and been as high as 41 in the world, now sitting at 53.

Both girls were solid in the opening games, with serves held for 2-2.  Gavrilova was first to venture into trouble, facing two break points in the fifth game, one saved with a down the line winner, the next with a poor shot at the net by Hradecka.  The Czech player brings back memories of Monica Seles, not in level of tennis but in that she uses a double handed shot on both forehand and backhand.  She failed to capitalise on the chance to break and the Australian led 3-2.

Hradecka served her way out of a sticky situation to even it up at 3-3 before Dasha almost wasted a 40-15 lead, instead edging ahead again.  No breaks of serve was quite impressive considering the nerves which must have been at play early on.

Lucie squared the ledger with the most impressive service game yet, highlighted by a quality winner at the net and another from the backhand wing.  Gavrilova was beginning to feel the superior power of Hradecka, and in the ninth game more break points needed to be saved.  The Hewitt-like determination came to the fore once more, and the score was 5-4 in Gavrilova's favour, despite the Czech player appearing often to have control.

Serving to stay in the first set, Lucie contributed a double fault and a fine return from Dasha saw 15-30 on the board.  A netted forehand from Lucie gave Dasha set point, impressively saved, before the serve was ultimately held and 5-5 reached.

Gavrilova fell apart in the next game, 0-40 and in peril.  Amazingly Hradecka again failed to convert any of the break points and the little Australian escaped to 6-5.

Tie breaker was required to determine the outcome of set one.

Two loose forehands from Hradecka, one long and one wide, gave Gavrilova a 3-0 lead.  Big hitting from Lucie brought it back to 3-3.  Gavrilova attacked the net and won the point on Hradecka's serve to lead 4-3 and proceeded to win the next three as well, the final point of the set a double fault from Hradecka.  Dasha had prevailed 7-6 against all odds and Lucie would be bemoaning all her break chances wasted.

Pushing the disappointment aside quickly, Hradecka held serve competently and then predictably pressured the Gavrilova serve into break point territory, this time 15-40.  Serving her way yet again out of disaster, Dasha won four straight points to level the set at 1-1.

No problems for Hradecka on serve, as per usual, with just a blazing forehand winning return the highlight for Gavrilova.  2-1 the Czech advantage.

No sign of a service break and 3-3.  And then all of a sudden a crack in the solid serve of Hradecka who faced 0-40.  One break point saved before a forehand slammed into the net resulted in the first service break of the match, incredibly achieved by Gavrilova, although much of the credit should go to Hradecka whose errors cost her dearly. 4-3 Dasha.

Covering the court brilliantly, and playing clever tennis shots, Gavrilova consolidated the service break easily to lead 5-3 and be one game from the second round.

Hradecka held comfortably and forced Gavrilova to serve for the match, and at 0-30 the nerves were clear to see.  Fortunately smart serving and patience of shot making was too much for Hradecka and the match was won by the Australian 7-6 (3) 6-4.

The second round will be much tougher against another Czech opponent in sixth seed Petra Kvitova who dropped just four games in her round one victory.

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