Musings from Melbourne Day 2: Madison Keys toughs out a win
Each day, Musings from Melbourne will feature a series of questions about the 2016 Australian Open and quick thoughts, analysis and news from Sports Illustrated's executive editor Jon Wertheim.
Were you surprised at Venus Williams’s loss to Johanna Konta?
The one sort of dirty secret of these events is that in the first few days, there are so many matches going on that you sometimes miss the action and just see the result.
Sloane Stephens played yesterday while Serena was in action, so very few people saw that match, but her loss was mystifying. Venus’ result on Tuesday was equally puzzling.
Venus played so well and so much in the fall last year and did such a nice job finishing in the top 10 and getting herself in a position to be a top 8 seed here in Melbourne. She was the defending champion in Auckland and lost her first match there and then comes into the Australian Open and loses 6–4, 6–2 to Konta. So that’s a deeply disappointing loss for her. The plus side is that she wasn’t one of the players who had to retire with injury.
So far there hasn’t been this titanic upset, but there have been a lot of strange results, and this one certainly qualifies. From Noah Rubin, outside of the top 300 beating Benoit Paire, who is ranked inside the top 20, to Sloane Stephens, who had a tune-up title under her belt and then comes in and loses to a qualifier, to Caroline Wozniacki, who also lost on Monday.
How much are the conditions affecting play? Is this something that is going to play a big role as the tournament goes on, or are the retirements more a result of fitness or injury issues?
It was really hot on Tuesday, but the good news is that the forecast seems to get cooler—Day 2 may be the hottest day of the tournament. But you see Kevin Anderson retire down two sets to one against Rajeev Ram, and some of the matches yesterday where heat was definitely a factor. There certainly have been hotter days in Melbourne, but a lot of these matches are being decided by who can withstand playing in the oppressive heat more.
Name one player who has impressed you so far on Day 2.
I was at the Madison Keys-Zarina Diyas match on Rod Laver. Keys played an awful for about 40 minutes and it looked like it was going to be still another under-achieving WTA result. She’s down set points and then all of the sudden, for the next 45 minutes she looked like the player that got to the semifinals last year. I was impressed by how she was able to turn around the match. People will gloss over that scoreline but for the first 40 minutes, it looked like Keys was a semifinalist in 2015 and a first-round loser in 2016. Sometimes an ugly win like that is a bigger deal to a player than going in there and winning 6–2, 6–3.
The other thing about Day 2 is that there is still this hangover from the match-fixing report. In every conversation I had today there were questions of: What do you think about the report? What do you think the next step is? Are people doing enough? And players and other people are still trying to guess the names on these lists, so there are definitely lingering effects from Day 1’s match-fixing bombshell.
What is the atmosphere like at Melbourne Park ahead of Lleyton Hewitt’s night session match?
We’re reporting from midday on Day 2, so there is still a lot of tennis left to be played. But there has been a lot of talk about Lleyton Hewitt in Tuesday’s night session opener on Rod Laver. I do think there is an expectation for him to win, but this is certainly a big moment for him and for Australia.
It’s funny because Nick Kyrgios is a big star of this tournament—there was a huge line of players to watch him play—so you very much have this old star/new star theme. Hewitt, on paper, ought to win his match against his countryman James Duckworth. If he were playing Roger Federer, you’d sort of say this was a nice send-off, but considering the opponent, it would be unfortunate for him to go off on what realistically would be a disappointing defeat.