Serena Williams Conquers Bencic, Yips at Australian Open
by Jeremy Davis | January 17th, 2017, 8:48 am

Serena Williams has the yips.
You saw it much in 2016. Double faults on match points. Footwork going out the door. Pained look on the face.

On Tuesday at the Australian Open, leading Belinda Bencic 6-4, 5-0, it was another trip to Yip Town for the current world No. 2.

Bencic held for 1-5. Serena dropped serve. Bencic held at love. Serena double faulted on match point before finally closing it out. Win one for the yipper.

“She’s such a great player, was in the Top 10, so it was probably the toughest first-round match I’ve ever played,” said Williams after the 6-4, 6-3 win.

The 19-year-old Swiss had won their last meeting, but this was a different Bencic who looked less than fit after dealing with a few nicked-up injuries of late. This time a year ago Bencic was ranked No. 7, but it appears 2017 will be a battle with the body (wrist and back, specifically) rather than opponents for the oft-injured Swiss.

Serena next progresses to another tester, this time lefty former Top 10er Lucie Safarova, who on Tuesday survived nine match points to beat Belgian Yanina Wickmayer.

Also into the second round from the Top 10 were No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska working past Tsvetana Pironkova 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 in the final night match; No. 5 Karolina Pliskova blasting Spain’s Sara Sorribes 6-2, 6-0; No. 6 Dominika Cibulkova over Czech Denisa Allertova 7-5, 6-2; and No. 9 Johanna Konta subduing Kirsten Flipkens 7-5, 6-2.

“I’m very happy to have come through, I think more specifically to difficulties that my opponent presented today more so than the weather,” Konta said after defeating the tricky Flipkens. “I mean, it was hot, but last week in Sydney, we experienced something a lot hotter. So I think it was always cool in comparison.”

Konta will next face another tough one against last year’s semifinalist and rising star Naomi Osaka, who on Tuesday survived Luksika Kumkhum 6-7(2), 6-4, 7-5.

Pliskova allowed only two games to her opponent, and is not allowing the talk of being a title contender to be a distraction.

“I’ve heard a few things, but I’m not thinking about this,” said Pliskova, who was +8 on the day winners to unforced errors. “I just don’t want to get it into my head. I just want to continue in those things what I was doing the second half of the year last year and even in Brisbane. Obviously I know that people are talking somehow, especially at Grand Slams and stuff. But it’s not really important for me, these things.”

Pliskova said she didn’t deal well with the pressure of expectations after reaching the US Open semifinals, but now has a better mind-set.

“I feel 100 times better than I felt before the US Open,” she said. “So this thing is already gone, the scariness of the second week and thinking about how I have to pass the third round. Even if I don’t do it here this week, I know I have been there, so it’s really different this time. It doesn’t mean that I’ll be in the second week of every Grand Slam for sure; it can happen that I still lose, but definitely I feel better with this pressure what I had before.”

Additional seeded winners were No. 12 Timea Bacsinszky who needed three to beat Camila Giorgi, No. 14 Elena Vesnina, No. 16 Barbora Strycova, No. 17 Caroline Wozniacki, No. 21 Caroline Garcia, No. 22 Daria Gavrilova who edged Brit Naomi Broady 7-5 in the third, No. 28 Alize Cornet who defeated France’s Myrtille Georges 6-1 in the third, No. 30 Ekaterina Makarova who survived Russian countrywoman Ekaterina Alexandrova in three, and No. 31 Yulia Putintseva.

On the upset tip in the warm conditions were Brit Heather Watson taking out No. 18-seeded Aussie Samantha Stosur 6-3, 3-6, 6-0, and American Nicole Gibbs ousting No. 25 Timea Babos 7-6(3), 6-4.

“You get a bit sick of this feeling,” said Stosur, who crashed out 6-0 in the third with a -12 in winners to unforced errors. “You’re disappointed — you’re upset, angry. I feel like I’ve done everything I can to try and prepare as best as I can. I gave it my best shot and it didn’t happen again.”

Matches of interest on a light Wednesday in Melbourne are the all-German (1) Angie Kerber vs. Carina Witthoeft, an upset alert with Alison Riske vs. (20) Shuai Zhang, and (31) Venus Williams vs. Stefanie Voegele.

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9 Comments for Serena Williams Conquers Bencic, Yips at Australian Open

RZ Says:

Safarova survived 9 match points… you all know where I’m going with this. Despite that I don’t see Lucie winning the title (maybe doubles) but Serena had better watch out!

jalep Says:

My Gosh, I would so love it if Lucie Safarova wins the next match and keeps going.

RZ, sorry. Somehow I errantly chose for scoring to be seed # plus points for winner. Ack! It’s messed up. Jalep’s WTA bracket scoring is nuts 🤦

sinha71 Says:

Serena looked very good but I am picking Pliskova to win it all.

Poor Halep. I would have thought she would do more with Cahill as Coach.

Willow Says:

Especially enjoyed the Radwanska / Pironkova match, lots of winners and beautiful tennis, Radwanska is such a talented all court player, Virginia Wade once said its refreshing to see a female player thinking about the way she plays, rather than seeing power hitters all the time ….

J-Kath Says:

Testing – my new email address.

RZ Says:

@Jalep – it makes it all the more interesting! Who knows how my bracket will be now. :-)

jalep Says:

Yeah…I don’t know LOL…The high numbers are rather HIGH – inflated by a LOT. Maybe some game rules that I missed!?

Willow — it was a great performance by both.

Pironkova vs Radwanska 1st round AO

Humble Rafa Says:

President of the Injury Club, Tommy the Great, is back on club duty. No worries though, he will be back.

RZ Says:

@HR – Tommy won’t be president of the injury club much longer. Is your humbleness planning to take over? If not, may I suggest 4K? He’s young but clearly belongs in the club. :-(

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