Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks ahead to the latest in tennis. Today, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews day 6 of the 2021 Australian Open.
Ultimately, it’s probably the 15-month wait that was too long and too much to overcome.
Canadian Bianca Andreescu, still seeded No. 8 in her first tournament in almost a year and a half, fell in the second round of the Australian Open against Hsieh Su-Wei by the final score of 6-3 and 6-2. The loss understandably frustrated the young Canadian. “Even in those tough moments, I thought I could break her a little bit,” she said. “But she was on every single ball.”
Hsieh indeed was everywhere and tried every shot, because that’s what the 35-year-old has always done on tour. For someone who’s barely played in so long like Andreescu has, facing the Taiwanese is just about a worst-case scenario come to fruition: Hsieh’s entire game is dependent on not giving her opponent any kind of rhythm and to bring her out of their zone of comfort as much as possible. Against Andreescu, who loves to hit with as much topspin as anyone, like, ever, Hsieh’s script worked like a charm mainly because it’s one great way to level the playing field.
(Giri Nathan, from Defector, has a typically wonderful analysis of the match and the way both players’ styles clash. Read it all here.)
What comes next?
Looking back, we probably expected too much from Andreescu, who got to the second round only when she barely survived a three-set first round win against Romanian Mihaela Buzarnescu. It’s tough to predict what might come next for the 20-year-old Andreescu, but it’s likely that she’ll be fine one way or another.
At the very least, she appears fully healthy; after the kind of layoff she’s had, we shouldn’t take that for granted.
Matches to highlight
Now that we’ve mentioned this, here are the three matches we’ve chosen to highlight for day 6. As usual, please find the entire day’s schedule right here.
Rod Laver Arena: Elise Mertens  vs Belinda Bencic  (Third match of the day)
Belinda Bencic is set to equal the best performance of her career if she can just get through this third round match against Elise Mertens; this is admittedly not an easy match, but it’s one that’s well within her reach. And if she does make it to the fourth round, she should have another match against a tricky opponent that ultimately shouldn’t overmatch her. If nothing else, this would boost her confidence and possibly push her to reach the level she did in the latter half of the 2019 season.
John Cain Arena: Karen Khachanov  vs Matteo Berrettini  (Not before 5pm AEDT)
Here are two players who have managed to excel under the radar but truly, this is probably as fun and as thrilling as a third round Grand Slam singles match can get. It might be the last win either of them gets in Melbourne, as Stefanos Tsitsipas likely awaits in the fourth round, but that doesn’t mean we should write them fully off either.
Margaret Court Arena: Feliciano Lopez vs Andrey Rublev  (Third match of the day)
Can Andrey Rublev do everything that he has been doing in recent months on the biggest stages of the sport? If he can navigate a possibly third round match here, things open up—at least they do for another round, until he presumably faces countryman Daniil Medvedev in the quarterfinals. There are levels to this.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG