It was a blockbuster second round match between Ekaterina Makarova and Sara Errani at the Australian Open as it was tipped to be a very tight match. Both players were previously in the top ten, but they were hampered by consistent injuries that pulled them down in the rankings which eventually cost Makarova to fall out of the top 30 and Errani out of the top 50 this year. Due to a leg injury, Errani had to retire from the match in the middle of the second set and gave Makarova the win to enter the third round.
Makarova strolls to win the first set
The Russian made a slow start to the match, a big contrast to her first round match on Tuesday. Known for her defensive style of tennis, Errani had to rely on the errors by Makarova to break service in the opening game of the match to take the early advantage, after Makarova hit four unforced errors to start with. Preventing the Italian from consolidating the break, the Russian broke straight back to love and leveled the match as her offensive style of tennis grew more solid as the match progressed. The match then had its first service hold as Makarova held her service, but not without any troubles as she had to save a break point in the process. Uncharacteristically, Errani hit two consecutive unforced errors to give another break away and allow Makarova to take a comfortable lead.
The Russian continued to play her offensive style of tennis as she carved out another tough service hold to consolidate the break of serve and look to close out the set. Errani’s woes continued as she was broken once again to lose her fifth game in a row to be on the verge of losing the set after she looked out of sorts during the match and was unable to handle Makarova’s solid groundstrokes. Serving for the set, Makarova earned a set point but failed to convert it after Errani saved it with a backhand winner. The Italian managed to keep herself in the set as she rebounded to break service for the second time to get one of the breaks back. However, it proved to be just a consolation game as Makarova stepped up her game once more and closed out the first set after 34 minutes on an Errani unforced error.
Errani hampered by a leg injury
Errani looked to have a great start to the second set as she earned a break point in the opening game of the set, similar to the situation in the first set. This time, the former world number five failed to convert it as she hit a backhand unforced error and eventually allowed Makarova to hold serve. Makarova looked like she was going to stroll through the second set as she earned yet another break point opportunity in the following game. However, just like Errani, Makarova hit a backhand unforced error to give away the chance and allowed Errani to have her first service hold of the whole match.
The Italian then had a third service break of the day as Makarova’s backhand started to look leaky and was broken on her serve yet again mainly thanks to her backhand errors. Errani did not hold on to the lead for long though, as Makarova came from 0-40 down to break serve despite looking down-and-out with the momentum running in the Italian. Makarova then held her serve comfortably in the next game to take a 3-2 lead, before earning another break point in her next return game. Unexpectedly, Errani retired from the match on break point due to a leg injury, leaving the court in tears.
Makarova was particularly efficient on her attack today, as reflected in her winners count of 27. However, that came along with 29 unforced errors as the Russian gave Errani multiple opportunities to take advantage of them and take a lead in the match. However, despite the scoreline, it was a closely contested match with many games going to deuce. Errani, hampered by the leg injury, was serving poorly and won only one second service point throughout the whole match. She also won around 46% of first service points, while Makarova won 53% of first service points and 50% of second service points.
Next up for Makarova
It would be a very tricky opponent for the Russian as she would face world number six and WTA Finals champion Dominika Cibulkova in the blockbuster third round match. Makarova trails by 0-3 in their head-to-head record and Cibulkova would definitely enter the match as the heavy favourite, and it would be interesting to see if Makarova could be able to replicate her success here in 2015.