Even in the big-time world of professional tennis, connections – that business of networking – can help you get ahead.
After advancing to Thursday’s second-round match, Alize Cornet planned to gather some intelligence on her opponent, Garbiñe Muguruza.
“She played a Frenchy in the first round, so I hope that she’s going to give me some clue,” Cornet said, referring to Clara Burel. “I’m good friends with her. We were Fed Cup mates and we get along very well, so I’m just going to ask her how she felt on the court and if she saw something particular.”
Cornet handled qualifier Viktoriya Tomova in a straightforward 6-3, 6-3 match. Meanwhile, Muguruza, the No.3 seed at this Australian Open, dispatched Burel 6-3, 6-4. For the Spaniard, it was her 10th appearance in Melbourne – and her 10th first-round victory.
“I’ve always gone through the first round,” Muguruza said afterward. “Yeah, very happy the way I played and, of course, controlling the nerves. You’re always nervous going out there on Rod Laver, which I love, and starting a Grand Slam campaign. “
Anett Kontaveit and Paula Badosa made terrific late-season surges, but it was Muguruza who carried away the title at the Akron WTA Finals in Guadalajara. It took her to the No.3 ranking – and marked her as an oh-so serious contender in 2022. Before play began, Muguruza was asked if Guadalajara gave her an unprecedented belief in her game.
“No,” she said. “I don’t think it’s even higher because I won a tournament and that all of a sudden gives me ... no. I feel like something that people that don’t play tennis have trouble to understand is no matter how good you are, you always have doubts if you can do it again or not. Even if you won 10 Grand Slams, sometimes that creates even more doubts about analyzing everything, `Am I ready, is this going to be the same way, I don’t want to change anything.’
“We have the same doubts as everybody else when it comes down to going in the court and feeling like I have a match, if the other one plays good, I can go home as well.”
Against Cornet, who turns 32 on Saturday and is ranked No.61,this always seems to be a possibility. They have split four previous matches, with Cornet prevailing most recently in a third-set tiebreak at last year’s Berlin quarterfinals. Muguruza won the first meeting nearly a decade ago in the Bucharest semifinals.
While Cornet has never been past the fourth round of a major, she nevertheless holds the significant distinction of appearing in 60 consecutive main draws, the WTA’s longest active streak. In the Open Era, only Ai Sugiyama (62) and Francesca Schiavone (61) have more – Cornet could eclipse them at this year’s US Open.
“Yeah, Garbiñe, we know each other pretty well,” Cornet said. “We’ve played each other a few times now. She’s an amazing champion. She’s Top 5 in the world, so I’ll have to play my best tennis to beat her, that’s for sure.”
The second round is already without No.16 seed Angelique Kerber, No.20 Petra Kvitova and No.23 Leylah Fernandez. Still, there are some compelling matchups in store, including a number of high-profile first-time matchups.
No.6 Anett Kontaveit versus Clara Tauson
Fernandez and Coco Gauff might no longer be in the draw, but there’s another teenager hoping to do some damage. Tauson, 19, reached the quarterfinals of the Melbourne Summer Set 2 to open her season but retired to Aliaksandra Sasnovich after losing eight of 11 games. She looked fit in a first-round 6-3, 6-4 victory over Astra Sharma. Kontaveit was a 6-2, 6-3 winner over Katerina Siniakova. “I think she’s an up-and-coming young player,” Kontaveit said. “I’ve seen some of her matches, of course, and she can be very dangerous.”
No.2 Aryna Sabalenka versus Wang Xinyu
After two losses in Adelaide that featured a total of 39 double faults, Sabalenka was understandably worried about her serve. She wasn’t the only one. Former Australian star Mark Philippoussis, now a broadcaster, sent her a note that said, “Well, girl, just stop thinking a lot on your serve.”
Later, they went out on the practice court and worked on it.
“He gave me some tips about what should I focus on during the game when I’m like struggling with my serve,” Sabalenka said. “We had nice conversation. I really, I’m really thankful to him for this help because that’s what helped me today on match to just survive there.”
That 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 first-round win over Australian wildcard Storm Sanders wasn’t perfect, but it was an improvement. Sabalenka hit seven aces, against 12 double faults and won only 13 of 30 second-serve points. She’ll need to do better against the No.100-ranked Wang, who fashioned a 7-6 (5), 6-3 win over Ann Li.
No.7 Iga Swiatek versus Rebecca Peterson
Down 3-1 to qualifier Harriet Dart, Swiatek reeled off 11 consecutive games. The 2020 French Open champion says she’s more settled one year after worrying about defending that title.
“After losing second round in that tournament prior to Australian Open last year,” she said, “During these five days I was being like, `Hey, it’s not working out.’ I’m thinking about French Open. I’m having huge expectations. I didn’t know if I’m going to get through this.”
Peterson was a 6-2, 6-3 winner over Australian wildcard Daria Saville.
Head-to-head: 1-0, Swiatek, at last year’s French Open, 6-1, 6-1 in the second round.
No.14 Simona Halep versus Beatriz Haddad Maia
Along with Ashleigh Barty and Amanda Anisimova, Halep is one of three WTA players with a perfect record in 2022. She won the Melbourne Summer Set 1 event and advanced to the second round here with a 6-4, 6-3 decision over Magdalena Frech. After an injury filled 2021, Halep said she’s still not playing as well as 2017-19, when she rose to No.1 and won two majors.
“I don’t believe I am at the highest level, my highest level, like in the past,” she said. “But I feel good. I feel confident that the game is there, the movement is there. The mental is pretty strong.” Haddad Maia, a lefty from Brazil, needed three sets to vanquish qualifier Katie Volynets.
Head-to-head: 1-0, Halep, a second-round straight sets win at 2017 Wimbledon.
No.10 Anastasia Pavyluchenkova vs. Samantha Stosur
Stosur announced this is the last singles tournament of her career but, after a7-5, 6-4 victory over fellow wildcard Robin Anderson, is she reconsidering?
“Oh, maybe I made a mistake,” Stosur told reporters, smiling. “No, this is it.”
Pavlyuchenkova scored a decisive 6-2, 6-1 victory over Anna Bondar. This is their 10th meeting. Their first match, in 2008 Birmingham qualifying, was won by Stosur in three sets.
“We’ve played many times,” Stosur said. “It’s gone both ways. We’ve had some really close matches, played some good tennis against each other. Played doubles together. We know each other pretty well. Yeah, obviously it’s going to be a tough one, no doubt.”
Head-to-head: 5-4, Stosur, who won their second-round meeting at 2018 Roland Garros.
No.17 Emma Raducanu versus Danka Kovinic
The reigning US Open champion took down 2017 US Open winner Sloane Stephens in a wild one, 6-0, 2-6, 6-1. Raducanu, 19, had lost three straight matches. Kovinic won in three sets over qualifier Jang Su Jeong.
[WC] Maddison Inglis versus [Q] Hailey Baptiste
The most unlikely matchup left on the board. Inglis surprised US Open finalist and No.23 seed Leylah Fernandez, 6-4, 6-2. Baptiste, 20 years old and ranked No.165, took down Caroline Garcia 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3.
“This is my first main-draw win,” said Inglis, a 24-year-old Australian. “I had thought of that moment for a long time. It was just pure happiness. I saw the ball go out and I looked at my box. It was an amazing moment.”