Henin Survives, Nerves and Upsets on Day 1 at Australian Open
by Staff | January 17th, 2011, 11:51 am

Nervous starts and upsets characterized Day One on the women’s side at the Australian Open, where former No. 1 and No. 11 seed Justine Henin survived an early onslaught from hard-hitting Indian qualifier Sania Mirza before prevailing 5-7, 6-3, 6-1.
“She’s not a qualifier like maybe the others, as she has been in this type of situation. She has been in the Top 30, I think,” Henin said of Mirza, who was a regular in tour draws until sidelined by injuries and a high-profile marriage. “She can play a very solid tennis. So the beginning wasn’t that easy for me. She was playing high rhythm, not a lot of mistakes at the beginning, and it was tough for me because I was running a lot. To get into the match, that wasn’t the perfect situation for me to come into the tournament.”

The Belgian says her elbow injury is still an ongoing issue, but workable with treatment.

“I think physically I’m probably better than a year ago. And I’m getting there,” Henin said. “I mean, it’s been my first official match in the last six months. So it’s not just one week that you find everything (snapping fingers). But the passion is back. I know I came through difficult moments in the last few months. But now I’m here, and I’m very happy about that…I know I will do all the [elbow] treatments and everything we have to do. But mentally for me it’s important also that I can just put my mind somewhere else on something very important, on my game right now.”

Seeds that failed to dig out of the dirt in three sets on Monday were No. 17 Aravane Rezai losing to Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-0, 3-6, 7-5, and No. 28 Daniela Hantuchova falling to Russian Regina Kulikova 7-6(3), 3-6, 9-7.

Escaping in three-setters were No. 6 Francesca Schiavone over Spaniard Arantxa Parra Santonja, No. 20 Kaia Kanepi over Slovak Magdalena Rybarikova from a set down, No. 21 Yanina Wickmayer over Aussie Jarmila Groth, No. 29 Dominika Cibulkova over German Angelique Kerber, and No. 32 Tsvetana Pironkova over France’s Pauline Parmentier.

Favorites world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki and No. 4 Venus Williams restored normalcy with straight-set wins over Argentina’s Gisela Dulko and Italy’s Sara Errani respectively.

“I’m feeling good. I’m feeling like I’m in a good shape. Happy to be through from the first round,” Wozniacki said. “It was a bit windy out there. You really had to have a look where the wind was blowing.”

Venus said she was going to wear the “nude” look from last year but changed her mind at the last minute in choosing the on-court wear of her own design company.

“The design, it really was an illusion dress, the illusion when I wear the nude shorts under,” Venus said. “But at the last minute I decided not to. I just decided to wear the black ones. It’s just about focusing on the dress and not anything else. I mean, I had black shorts under. But normally like it’s all about the dress because it has a mesh and a satin kind of material. Of course, it’s all sports gear, and it’s all about that zipper, too. A lot of the focus of the dress is the zipper. So, of course, always I have fun designing my dresses.”

In other seeded action No. 14 Maria Sharapova advanced easily, and No. 15 Marion Bartoli showed her blistering form in a double bagel over Italy’s Tathiana Garbin.

Sharapova talked about dumping long-time coach Michael Joyce.

“We worked for six years together,” Sharapova said. “After a really long period of time, I think a few things become a routine. I think from both of our perspectives it was really a good move to bring in a new voice, a fresh perspective into the team. You know, he was within that transition. We all talked about it as a team. Michael is like a brother to me. We talk all the time. Obviously it’s different not having him at a tournament after so many years. Yeah, I mean, it’s part of an athlete’s career…It’s a break for now. I haven’t really had a new coach for many, many years.”

Sharapova and Joyce reportedly split in Auckland prior to the Australian Open. She is now working with another former ATP player, Thomas Hogstedt.

All-unseeded results of note were three qualifying winners in Brit Anne Keothavong, former Dutch world No. 1 junior Arantxa Rus (d. hot-handed American Bethanie Mattek-Sands), and Russian Vesna Manasieva.

Drama-ridden Aussie wildcard Jelena Dokic was also a winner, defeating Czech Zuzana Ondraskova 6-3, 6-2.

Dokic also split with her coach days prior to the tournament, Dutchman Glenn Schaap.

We split a couple days ago, right before the Australian Open,” Dokic said. “Nothing special. No hard feelings, you know. There are certain people that suit you for your game and for your personality. This was just not one of them. This is the first time we traveled together, so it was all kind of a test period anyway. I feel like he didn’t suit the type of tennis that I wanted to play…That was my feeling inside. I went by my instinct. I think I made the right choice. I’m working with Tennis Australia, actually with Louise Pleming. She’s helping me out…I do want to listen to the coach, but at the same time, I’m also not 15 years old. So I have some experience and I know what I want to do.”

Highlights on Tuesday include (2) Vera Zvonareva vs. Sybille “The Whammer” Bammer, (5) Sam Stosur vs. American wildcard hopeful Lauren Davis, a battle of former No. 1s in Dinara Safina vs. (3) Kim Clijsters, American hopeful Coco Vandeweghe vs. French hopeful Alize Cornet, elder upset specialist Kimiko Date-Krumm vs. (12) Agnieszka Radwanska, (24) Alisa Kleybanova vs. U.S. college star Irina Falconi, and (26) Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez vs. 2011 fast starter Greta Arn.

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12 Comments for Henin Survives, Nerves and Upsets on Day 1 at Australian Open

Eric Says:

What upsets? Actually, for the men’s side of the draft, only two seeds have lost so far. Obviously only half of them have played, but compared to the last GS, 2010 USO, where eight seeds lost in the first round, or the AO last year, where seven fell, so far, what we have is some pretty remarkable consistency and results-getting from the seeded players. :)

And for the women, same story: two seeds have lostso far, which is on par with the last slam (four) and last AO (five).

Richard Says:

Upsets? Just goes to show the bias against Women’s tennis, the seeds all lived up to their billing. The only 2 “casualties” were the walking time bomb Rezai and a possible retiree in Hantuchova.

As far as nerves go, that would apply to Henin and MAYBE Schiavone, as all the seeds basically cruised through in straight sets.

If anything, Nerves and Upsets characterized the men’s draw in Day 1. Just being fair.

Eric Says:

Exactly. And I didn’t see the first two sets of Henin’s match, but I know that Mirza is a really quality player who is capable of holding serve against anybody, so it is not surprising that she won a set against even Henin. But the narrative goes that women’s players are mentally fragile babies, which is true some of the time, but not always. And it’s a simple fact that upsets are simply less likely on the men’s side of the draw because it is much harder to outplay a better player for three sets than for two (check Monfils, Fish, Montanes…).

jane Says:

You go guys! :)

Berneice Says:

Good luck to all u guys

guy Says:

there are more upsets on the men’s side because the atp tour has five times the depth. and it always will. more males play sport. males are more competitive. result, higher quality tour.

BT Says:

LOL Safina just got owned by Clijsters. Force fed two bagles. Good night, time to retire with your brother.

Ivanovic match on a knife edge. Much more entertaining.

steve-o Says:

Clijsters has demolished Safina without dropping a game. I was expecting Safina to lose heavily, but not that heavily, geez.

Makarova managed to edge out Ivanovic, just barely, 10-8 in the third.

MalaMo Says:

I’m really, really disappointed about the way Ivanovic played….I was really expecting her even to challenge Kim in the quarters…will she ever get passed this?!

jane Says:

I guess Ivanovic was injured coming in (got injured at Hopman & pulled from final) but still … didn’t see match so can’t comment more than that.

thark Says:

bracket question:

if they add the seed number to your points for wins beyond the 3rd round, does that mean that an unseeded player going deep earns you fewer points than a person who is barely seeded and has a high number? that doesn’t make any sense to me…

also, the current #1 bracket in the overall pool has monfils beating roddick – i’m not a big roddick fan but that seems like crazy talk…

thark Says:

also poor safina – i have a feeling that right now she is somewhere in a rocking chair mumbling to herself and knitting nonsensical garments with infinite numbers of limbs…

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