MELBOURNE, Australia - Players got down to business at the Australian Open on Wednesday but for one of them it was more than just another day at the office - it was time to exorcise some demons.
Two years ago, at the Australian Open and in the second round, Marion Bartoli and Vesna Dolonc went to battle, with Bartoli coming off an impressive lead-up season and a double bagel victory in the first round, looking like she was headed for something big - but what happened was the complete opposite, as she tore her calf muscle mid-match, went down, 36 63 60, and was off the tour for six weeks.
"It was really a heartbreaker for me," Bartoli remembered. "I finished the match with a 5cm tear on my calf. I had to stay here for three days. I couldn't fly, it was hurting too much. I was even on crutches."
How likely was an exact rematch two years later? Apparently, likely. On Wednesday, at the Australian Open and in the second round, Bartoli and Dolonc met again, and early on the memories came back.
"The first 30 or 40 minutes I played so poorly - I couldn't focus on the ball, I just had those memories. But when I sat down at 6-5 in the first set, I told myself to just play tennis and enjoy the match, forget who's on the other side of the net and switch from the bad memories to something positive. I had played a great first round on the same court, so I focused on the good memories from two days ago."
That self-therapy worked, and Bartoli ran off the last eight games of the match, from 5-all to 75 60.
Next up for the No.11-seeded Frenchwoman is No.19-seeded Russian Ekaterina Makarova. "Last year she made the quarterfinals here beating Serena Williams, so she obviously feels very good here," Bartoli said. "But I've played her twice and won comfortably both times, so I feel good, and great physically."
There was another player who wasn't able to get over her demons, however - No.9 seed Sam Stosur, who has risen to incredible heights throughout the rest of the calendar but who has never quite reached the pinnacle at her home Grand Slam, suffered another early exit at Melbourne Park, finding her range in the middle of the match but letting go of a 5-2 third set lead to fall to China's Zheng Jie, 64 16 75.
"Obviously it's a pretty hard one to take when you get yourself well and truly into a winning position, and playing really quite well - then all of a sudden you get to 5-2 and lose five games straight," Stosur said in her press conference. "It's kind of hard to say much about it right now, to be honest."
Stosur did elaborate, though. "I got tight, and then you start missing some balls. You probably think a little bit too much. You do it over and over and over again, and then you start not wanting to miss rather than wanting to make the winner. Instead, you're thinking, 'I don't want to make the error.'"
But there were positives. "I think it's great I was down a set and managed to come back and turn it around - that's a real positive. Now it's just a matter of finishing off. When you get two points from the match, it's got to be done. It was close to being a great day, and now it's not such a great day."
And another big storyline was the all-Serb, all-former No.1 third round clash that was set up later in the day, with Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic both winning through. The No.13-seeded Ivanovic overcame a mid-match blip to beat Chan Yung-Jan, 75 16 64, while the No.22-seeded Jelena Jankovic came within points of defeat before sneaking out the breaker and defeating Maria Joao Koehler, 26 76(5) 62.
Others moving through to the last 32 included No.18 seed Julia Goerges, No.27 seed Sorana Cirstea, Kirsten Flipkens - who stunned No.23 seed Klara Zakopalova, 61 60 - and Russian qualifier Valeria Savinykh, who also pulled off an upset, dismissing No.15 seed Dominika Cibulkova, 76(6) 64.