x

Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 June 2018

Australian Open Day 3: Cornet breaks Goerges' 15-match winning spell

'Future of tennis' Kostyuk to face fourth seed Svitolina, Wozniacki battles back from the brink

Alize Cornet of France celebrates winning her second round match against Julia Goerges of Germany at the Australian Open. Lukas Coch / EPA
Alize Cornet of France celebrates winning her second round match against Julia Goerges of Germany at the Australian Open. Lukas Coch / EPA

Julia Goerges' 15-match unbeaten run came to a shuddering halt as she lost in straight sets to Alize Cornet in the Australian Open second round Wednesday.

The 42nd-ranked Frenchwoman won 6-4, 6-3 in one hour and 31 minutes on Margaret Court Arena and will face either Australia's Daria Gavrilova or Elise Mertens next.

"She had so many wins in a row and I'm just happy to break the spell," said an ecstatic Cornet, who dominated the No 12 seed.

The in-form Goerges had won three hard-court events in a row - Moscow and Zhuhai in 2017 and Auckland to start this year - and was fancied to go deep into the latter stages in Melbourne Park.

The German instead joined the big-name graveyard in the bottom half of the draw that has already claimed eight seeds including Venus Williams (5), CoCo Vandeweghe (10), US Open champion Sloane Stephens (13) and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (15).

"I was not favourite today," admitted Cornet. "I just played my heart out."

"I dream step by step," she said when asked if she could go further after two straight sets wins. "For sure, many beautiful things are coming."

Ukraine's Elina Svitolina adjusts her hair while playing Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic during their second round match at the Australian Open. Andy Brownbill / AP Photo
Ukraine's Elina Svitolina adjusts her hair while playing Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic during their second round match at the Australian Open. Andy Brownbill / AP Photo

Svitlonia: 'It was tough for me today'

Fourth seed Elina Svitolina revealed she had been dealing with injury issues at the Australian Open after successfully negotiating a tricky second-round match against Katerina Siniakova on Wednesday.

The Ukrainian conceded only her second set in seven matches this year but ultimately found a way past her Czech opponent 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 as the temperatures soared on Rod Laver Arena.

"It was very tough for me today," Svitolina said. "I didn't feel good and hopefully I can recover and be ready for next match. I had some issues before the start of the [tournament], it was like big question that I'm going to step on court for my first round."

The next match will be against 15-year-old compatriot Marta Kostyuk, the qualifier ranked 521 in the world who doubled down on her maiden grand slam victory on Monday with a 6-3, 7-5 win over local Olivia Rogowska on Wednesday.

"First time I heard about her when she won here," Svitolina, 23, said. "It's pretty cool that I'm playing someone from my country. It's gonna be very exciting for me and hopefully I can be ready for that match."

Svitolina had been firming as one of the favourites in a wide open race for the Melbourne Park crown after winning the Brisbane International warm-up event.

Her first set performance against Siniakova clearly sounded a warning to Svitolina about letting any kind of complacency creep into her head as she earned six break points but failed to convert any of them.

World No 59 Siniakova, who also took Svitolina to three sets at the US Open last year, really went for her shots, hitting 11 winners, and it was she who managed to get the upper hand in an arm-wrestle of a 50-minute set.

Svitolina finally got her first break at the eighth attempt to go 2-0 up in the second set.

Siniakova never gave up but was not the same threat after a seven-minute medical timeout in the second set and Svitolina claimed the victory with an unreturnable serve after two hours and 14 minutes.

"The second and third set was 6-2, 6-1, but I felt like it was 7-6 in the third or 8-6 in the third," Svitolina said. "It was very tough for me today. Not feeling great and was not focused on the right things."

'Future of tennis' Kostyuk to face fourth seed next

Kostyuk, meanwhile, was hailed as the "future of tennis" Wednesday after she became the youngest Australian Open second-round winner since "Swiss Miss" Martina Hingis in 1996.

The 15 year old's fairy-tale run at the year's first grand slam continued with a win over local wild-card Olivia Rogowska 6-3, 7-5.

It had commentators gushing that Kostyuk was "the future of tennis" as she extended her win streak at Melbourne Park to an incredible 11 matches after lifting the Australian Open girls' title in 2017 and coming through qualifying this year.

"This is the future, ladies and gentlemen. Fifteen years of age," said former British No 1 Sam Smith on Australia's Channel 7. "This is an incredible story. This is the future of tennis on your screen."

Before the start of this week Kostyuk's total career prize money was US$6,733 (Dh24,730), but she already has plans for the bumper $142,500 (Dh523,415) pay day she will earn even if she loses to Svitolina in the third round.

"Maybe I will get presents for my family, first of all, of course, because I have big family," she said. "And then for myself a bit. Yeah."

Playing since the age of five and watched by tennis-playing mum and coach Talina Beyko, who once reached 391st in the world, in her player's box on Margaret Court Arena, Kostyuk said she had been used to setting new standards.

"I think I broke some records every year so I feel OK about it," she said.

In the first round she had dismantled Chinese No 1 and 25th seed Peng Shuai in straight sets in just 57 minutes.

The talented Kostyuk continued in the same vein against Rogowska, taking the first set in 39 minutes.

"I didn't feel like she was 15 at all," said Rogowska. "I feel she's going to be a dangerous player when she grows up. Obviously she had some silly errors, I think with experience she'll clean that up."

Svitolina clearly knows what to expect when she faces her young compatriot on Friday.

"I little bit watched her first round," said the world No 4. "You know, she has nothing to lose, she goes just for everything. You know, a little bit like a headless chicken."

____________________

Read more:

____________________

The youngster is managed by former player Ivan Ljubicic, Roger Federer's coach, and said she was pleased to have such experience in her corner.

"He is always helping me, telling me what was wrong, even when I win," she said laughing. "I am lucky to have his experience."

And long hours of practice, she said, was the key to her success.

"Well, I heard a lot of times that I'm talented, and I know that," she told reporters with all the swagger of confident youth.

"But I know that only talent will not help me to play good. So I can say that I'm working pretty hard."

Luksika Kumkhum of Thailand hits a shot against Belinda Bencic of Switzerland. Thomas Peter / Reuters
Luksika Kumkhum of Thailand hits a shot against Belinda Bencic of Switzerland. Thomas Peter / Reuters

Venus conqueror Bencic slumps out

Venus Williams' Australian Open conqueror Belinda Bencic ran out of steam Wednesday, failing to keep the momentum going against qualifier Luksika Kumkhum.

The Roger Federer-inspired Swiss stunned Williams in Round 1, but was no match for the Thai star who moved into a Grand Slam third round for the first time.

Bencic, 20, was never in contention on a searing day on Hisense Arena, slumping 6-1 in the first set before putting up more fight in the second only to succumb 6-3.

Bencic, who made her WTA Tour debut as a 14 year old, has often been touted as a future potential champion, but she again failed to live up to the hype.

Only Tuesday, fellow Swiss Federer, who won the Hopman Cup this month alongside Bencic, had heaped praise on her.

"She's still so young, she has a great career ahead of herself. I try to help her where I can," he said.

But he also added: "Still so much to improve."

For Kumkhum, it was a major achievement in her seventh grand slam main draw appearance.

She lists her best tennis memory as reaching the second round at Melbourne Park in 2013, which she must now surely revise.

"This is the best win of my career," she said afterwards.

"I kept telling my coach and family that I want to pass the second round, so I'm really happy."

Wozniacki scrapes through Australian Open epic

Caroline Wozniacki saved two match points to scrape through to the third round of the Australian Open on Wednesday after being 5-1 down in the final set to unheralded Jana Fett.

The No 2 seed somehow prevailed after a titanic struggle 3-6, 6-2, 7-5 against the little-known Croat on a searing Rod Laver Arena in two hours and 31 minutes.

The Danish former world No 1 teetered on the brink of becoming the latest big-name casualty in the bottom half of a draw that has become the seeds' graveyard when Fett held two match points.

"That was crazy, I don't how I got back the in the match. She really took her shots, she had nothing to lose," said Wozniacki

But when in sight of by far the biggest win of her career, the world 119's nerves got the better of her as Wozniacki reeled off 10 points in a row to spark a winning run of six unanswered games.

"Experience was crucial," said Wozniacki. "I think she suddenly realised at 5-1 what was happening and I just had to attack and take advantage of it."

On Monday fifth seed Venus Williams, 10th seed CoCo Vandeweghe and 13th seed and reigning US Open champion Sloane Stephens all made early exits, meaning the bottom half of the draw is now wide open.

Wozniacki will continue her quest for a first Grand Slam title next against either Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands or American Nicole Gibbs for a place in the last 16.