Last year’s Wimbledon finalists Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua have taken their first step toward going one better in the ladies’ doubles event in 2014 with a straight-sets opening round win over Eugenie Bouchard and Heather Watson.
It was a large crowd that gathered on Court 6 to watch this encounter, an intriguing match-up between the Australian pair of Barty and Dellacqua – who reached three Grand Slam doubles finals in 2013 and are seeded sixth at the All England Club this year – and the glamorous teaming of local favourite Watson and Canadian “it” girl Bouchard.
Yet for all of Bouchard and Watson’s prowess on the singles court, Barty and Dellacqua’s 6-4, 7-6(3) victory showed that this rarely trumps the expertise of a seasoned doubles combination.
“We didn't expect an easy match, because even though maybe as a team they haven't played, in their singles, as individuals, they're extremely good players,” Dellacqua said.
“We were very prepared for a tough match. In their corners they're very good. But I think in the end, as a team, Ash and I were probably the better team. We could set some plays up. We had a little bit more experience maybe on the doubles court.
“I think it was a really good first round for us.”
Having played together for the best part of two years, the Australians looked more cohesive from the outset. While Barty may be the more explosive hitter, Dellacqua is the team’s safe pair of hands, and she executed deft lobs and sharp volleys to frequently confuse and split the Canadian-British pairing. While Barty took longer to settle, she eventually did and was deadly overhead, her winning smashes helping the sixth seeds out to a 4-2 lead.
With the break in hand, the Aussies closed out the opening set and raced to a 3-1, 30-0 lead in the second. But Bouchard and Watson – who teamed up just before the event after Watson messaged Bouchard to gauge her interest – hit back, their power wearing Barty and Dellacqua down. Having levelled scores, they survived countless break points in the ninth game to move ahead 5-4 and remain alive in the contest.
But the No.6 seeds proved too crafty in the ensuing tie-break. Dellacqua was especially damaging, lobbing her opponents three times in an epic rally and eventually forcing Bouchard to go for too much on a forehand. With three match points at their disposal, they needed just one; a drop volley winner sealed victory.
At the same time on adjacent Court 7, Spaniards Garbine Muguruza and Carla Suarez Navarro also advanced to the second round with a 7-6(4), 6-3 win over Christina McHale and Ajla Tomljanovic.
In an extremely competitive opening set, McHale and Tomljanovic matched the No.16 seeds in the power stakes, and the four women traded some huge blows from the baseline. The set appropriately progressed to a tie-break during which Muguruza and Suarez Navarro tightened up their games when they most needed to.
Like Barty and Dellacqua, the Spaniards – semi-finalists at Roland Garros last fortnight – enjoyed a slightly more cohesive partnership, and with Muguruza’s superior power and Suarez Navarro’s natural instincts around net, they were able to run away with the match in the second set.
Swiss legend Martina Hingis created plenty of buzz around the All England Club with her return to action in women’s doubles. It was Hingis’s first appearance at Wimbledon since 2007, and first in the ladies’ doubles event in 14 years; unfortunately, she and partner Vera Zvonareva, a wildcard pairing, found fourth seeds Cara Black and Sania Mirza too strong, falling 6-2, 6-4.
Hingis has made tentative steps back onto the doubles court in the past 12 months; in 2014, she has really hit her straps, winning the prestigious Miami Masters title with Sabine Lisicki, and last week reaching the Eastbourne final with Flavia Pennetta. She still possesses all the attributes that made her one of the greatest players of her generation; the quick hands, sharp reflexes, speedy court movement and complete game.
Unfortunately, Zvonareva was error-prone, no doubt emotionally drained from her epic singles victory earlier in the day against Brit Tara Moore. The fourth seeds exploited this advantage, targeting the Russian’s side of the court and racing through the opening set.
Hingis and Zvonareva moved ahead a break early in the second set, but they soon lost four straight games to find themselves down 5-2. A late rally ensued – mainly thanks to Hingis’s excellence around the net and overhead – but when the Swiss sent a backhand volley wide in the 10th game, Black and Mirza had cemented victory.
Shortly after Hingis and Zvonareva bade their exit, second seeds Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci avoided a similar fate with a comfortable victory over Jelena Jankovic and Alisa Kleybanova.
The more powerful team, the unseeded Jankovic and Kleybanova showed glimpses of their abilities, Jankovic’s athleticism and Kleybanova’s power making the first set competitive than the score-line suggested. Yet the Italian duo were more consistent and relentless, more adept around the net and combined more fluidly to complete a 6-2, 6-2 win in one hour and five minutes.
Third seeds Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik were unable to join their Italian rivals in the second round, upset 7-5, 6-3 by Andrea Petkovic and Magdalena Rybarikova in the first match of the day on Court 5.
20:08It brings me no pleasure but it's time to bring the curtain down for another year. Seemed somehow appropriate to leave the last word to Roger Federer. Thanks a billion for reading. What a fortnight, what a final, fast forward to 2015 please...
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