Australian Open 2021

Same outcome, opposite reactions

While Andreescu is upbeat after recovering from injury, Kvitova rues error-filled loss

Bianca Andreescu stretching for a backhand return to Chinese Taipei's Hsieh Su-wei yesterday. While the Canadian looked rusty, she is glad to have put her injury problems behind her.
Bianca Andreescu stretching for a backhand return to Chinese Taipei's Hsieh Su-wei yesterday. While the Canadian looked rusty, she is glad to have put her injury problems behind her.PHOTO: REUTERS

MELBOURNE • The nascent Australian Open conjured up its first big upsets in two top-10 women's players being bounced from the year's first Grand Slam but for one of them, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Before the hard-court Major, former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu's last tournament had been the 2019 WTA Finals in Shenzhen, China where she suffered a long-term knee injury.

It halted her rapid rise after beating Serena Williams in the final at Flushing Meadows that year and she also had to withdraw from the Grampians Trophy warm-up event last week as a precaution.

With just one competitive match in 15 months under her belt, the world No. 9 looked rusty, falling to a 6-3, 6-2 second-round defeat by Chinese Taipei's Hsieh Su-wei yesterday.

However, the Canadian, who was emotional after her loss, is hopeful her injury woes are finally behind her.

"I have zero worries about my health," the 20-year-old said. "I'm going to continue doing what I've been doing because obviously it's working. But if I'm healthy, I'm going to be playing. Obviously, I want to be careful but I will be playing.

"Being in the heart of quarantine, I could have had those extra two weeks being in the heat and getting used to sweating... to everything again.

"I'm just going to take this as a learning curve and bounce back for the next tournament. I think now it's just getting back into play, and it's good to know that I still have that fighting spirit in me."

Despite the early exit, Andreescu will draw confidence from her three-set opening win over Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania.

"I didn't put expectations on myself," she said. "I just told myself that I want to feel good on the court. Just happy to be back, injury-free after so long of not playing."

While Andreescu is looking forward to the future, it will be a long flight back to her native Czech Republic for Petra Kvitova.

The two-time Slam winner's bid to replicate her 2019 run to the final ended early, as she went out 6-4, 1-6, 6-1 to Sorana Cirstea after 44 unforced errors and seven double faults.

The world No. 8 had dominated their previous match-ups, winning five of their seven clashes, but her Romanian opponent was ruthless in the deciding set, showing little weariness despite being one of the 72 players that had to undergo hard quarantine here.

A "hurting" Kvitova, whose quarantine allowed training blocks of five hours daily, rued her many missed opportunities.

"I think this match wasn't really about the quarantine or just practising differently," she said. "I should have taken the first set when I was leading a break... it would be a different story.

"I think that was really the key of the match. It was quite a roller coaster. It's a little painful and I'm really disappointed about my loss. I didn't really bring the best tennis today."

Seven-time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams also suffered an early exit after getting swatted 6-1, 6-0 by Italian Sara Errani.

The world No. 81 did not win another game after turning her ankle when 5-1 down in the first set but there was still wide applause from the crowd for her manful efforts.

Elsewhere, Romanian second seed Simona Halep won five consecutive games to come back from the brink to defeat local hopeful Ajla Tomljanovic 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.

"She played unbelievable. But I fought till the end. I never gave up, and that's why maybe I could win in the end," she said.

Joining the Wimbledon champion in the third round will be three-time Major winner Naomi Osaka - the Japanese third seed beat France's Caroline Garcia 6-2, 6-3 - and 23-time Slam champion Serena Williams, who eased past Serbia's Nina Stojanovic 6-3, 6-0.



Day 4: Singtel Ch114/115 & StarHub Ch208/209, 8am & 4pm


MEN'S 2ND RD: Marton Fucsovics (Hun) bt Stan Wawrinka (Sui) 7-5 6-1 4-6 2-6 7-6 (11-9), Alexander Zverev (Ger) bt Maxime Cressy (USA) 7-5 6-4 6-3, Dominic Thiem (Aut) bt Dominik Koepfer (Ger) 6-4 6-0 6-2, Nick Kyrgios (Aus) bt Ugo Humbert (Fra) 5-7 6-4 3-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-4, Grigor Dimitrov (Bul) bt Alex Bolt (Aus) 7-6 (7-1) 6-1 6-2, Denis Shapovalov (Can) bt Bernard Tomic (Aus) 6-1 6-3 6-2, Diego Schwartzman (Arg) bt Alexandre Muller (Fra) 6-2 6-0 6-3.

WOMEN'S 2ND RD: Hsieh Su-wei (Tpe) bt Bianca Andreescu (Can) 6-3 6-2, Sara Errani (Ita) bt Venus Williams (USA) 6-1 6-0, Sorana Cirstea (Rou) bt Petra Kvitova (Cze) 6-4 1-6 6-1, Garbine Muguruza (Esp) bt Liudmila Samsonova (Rus) 6-3 6-1, Naomi Osaka (Jpn) bt Caroline Garcia (Fra) 6-2 6-3, Serena Williams (USA) bt Nina Stojanovic (Srb) 6-3 6-0, Iga Swiatek (Pol) bt Camila Giorgi (Ita) 6-2 6-4, Simona Halep (Rou) bt Ajla Tomljanovic (Aus) 4-6 6-4 7-5.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 11, 2021, with the headline 'Same outcome, opposite reactions'. Subscribe