30th seed Ekaterina Makarova faced a tricky opponent in fellow compatriot Ekaterina Alexandrova in the opening round of the Australian Open. Makarova has been troubled by many different injury problems in recent years and her ranking fell to around number 30 from being ranked in the top 10 in 2015. Defending fourth round points here in Melbourne, having lost to Johanna Konta in a thrilling match last year, Makarova would drop further in the rankings if she loses here early as she is currently ranked number 45 in the live rankings.
Alexandrova first rose to fame when she defeated former world number one Ana Ivanovic in the first round of last year’s Wimbledon Championships and also won her first WTA title of any kind when she triumphed in Limoges to clinch a WTA 125K Series title. The battle of the two Ekaterina’s would see the higher-ranked player being the favourite as she has the experience and ability to triumph in the match. However, if Alexandrova managed to pull off an upset, it would not be much of a surprise considering Makarova’s struggles nowadays. Alexandrova managed to take the match the distance, but Makarova was just too good for her younger compatriot as she took the match in just an hour and 25 minutes, a relatively short three-set match.
Makarova strolls to first set victory
Alexandrova had a slow start to the match as she hit three unforced errors in the opening game of the match to allow Makarova to hold serve and get off to a great start. Another four unforced errors, which included two double faults, proved costly as Makarova took advantage of those errors and take the early advantage. Alexandrova was all over the place as the former top 10 player strolled to a love hold to consolidate the break of service and affirm her lead on the scoreboard.
Another love game saw Makarova winning it again as she continued to storm through the first set within a blink of an eye. Two consecutive unforced errors then gave Makarova yet another easy game and the chance to clinch the first set after just 13 minutes. Alexandrova finally stepped up her game as she earned a game point while serving for the set. However, it was too late as Makarova soon strolled to a bagel victory after just 18 minutes. Alexandrova was especially erratic during the first set as she hit 16 unforced errors in this set alone, gifting Makarova more than half of the points she won in the opening set.
Alexandrova fights back
A strong start to the second set saw Makarova hold her serve comfortably to start the second with to win her seventh game in a row and prevent Alexandrova from getting onto the scoreboard. Alexandrova finally got onto the scoreboard, however, when she got her first service hold of the day, hitting an ace on game point. Makarova started to show some struggles during the match for the first time as she was broken for the first time in the match and allowed Alexandrova to take the lead for the first time. The younger Russian consolidated the break of serve and ran out to a 3-1 lead out of nowhere. Makarova had the chance to level the set at 3-2 but wasted two break points after hitting two consecutive backhand errors to allow Alexandrova to hold serve and keep her lead. After a string of comfortable service holds, Alexandrova eventually and successfully served out the second set to love and leveled the match despite Makarova dominating the majority of the match.
Makarova storms through final set
Similar to the first set, Makarova started the final set the best way possible as she broke serve in her opening return game of the final set as she came from 40-0 down to break serve after Alexandrova’s unforced errors came at the crucial moments. Alexandrova had a chance to break back in the following game but wasted three break points in the game after her backhands faltered on the break points. Alexandrova would rue the missed opportunities as she was broken immediately in the next game despite having a game point to allow Makarova to earn a double break lead. The experienced Russian looked to close out the match in a bagel once again after clinching another service hold, but this time Alexandrova held her serve while serving to stay in the match. It was proved to be just a consolation game as Makarova soon strolled to the victory despite some resistance from Alexandrova, clinching the match in just 85 minutes.
Next up for Makarova
Makarova would next face Sara Errani in the second round, and it would definitely be a very tough match-up for the Russian as she has a tight 4-3 head-to-head record in their careers, but leads 3-1 in their meetings on hard courts. It would be a tight match, with both players being hampered by injury problems just recently and is one of the must-see matches of the second round.