In the rain-delayed second-round match between local favourite Catherine McNally and 21st seed Ekaterina Alexandrova, it was the American youngster who pulled off the major upset and stunned the Russian 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 after two-hours and 26-minutes of action, setting up a meeting with either 16th seed Elise Mertens or Sara Sorribes Tormo in the next round.
McNally required just 20 winners as her solid counterpunching and impressive net play proved effective against the increasingly impatient and frustrated Alexandrova, who could barely find the court towards the end of the encounter. 17 out of 25 points at the net showcased the American’s dominance when rushing to the net, often forcing Alexandrova to hit a superb passing winner to get out of the tricky situation.
As most would have expected, the 21st seed was controlling the match but not entirely for the right reasons — her unforced errors, 46 of them, gifted her opponent too many free points and resulted in a disappointing second-round exit.
Alexandrova snatches the opening set
The big-serving American closed out the opening game of the match with an ace, signifying to her higher-ranked opponent that she meant business. Alexandrova was unfazed as she handled the pressure well, with her powerful serving ensuring that neither of them could find a breakthrough.
McNally was the first to surface a look at a break of serve, forcing the Russian into committing several errors and reaching deuce on the return. Nonetheless, Alexandrova served bullets to rescue her from the tricky situation once again.
In this clash initially scheduled on Court 5 but moved to an empty Court 7 in the evening, it was a loose backhand slice from McNally which gifted Alexandrova the first blood. The hard-fought lead was easily consolidated by the 21st seed, who eased her through next service games to take the one-sided opening set 6-4.
McNally holds on and fights back
Alexandrova had her chances to run away with the lead in the early stages of the second set, wasting two break points in the opening game. The 18-year-old eventually survived the tough challenge as her courageous net play applied too much pressure on the Russian, who could not find a way past the American at the net.
The 21st seed will rue her missed chances as a series of unforced errors saw Alexandrova being broken for the first time in the evening. Consolidating the break with a routine service hold, McNally was riding on her momentum and absolutely rolled through the next couple of games.
Alexandrova, who defeated Kim Clijsters in a blockbuster first-round match on Tuesday, produced a sneaky wide-angled forehand winner to bring up another break point in the sixth game. However, the Russian went for too much and started overhitting, missing out on the golden opportunity to level the scores.
On the other hand, playing with controlled aggression, McNally displayed some world-class all-court tennis and her patience was rewarded with a chance to serve out the second set. It was an adventurous experience as the American saw three set points come and go, with Alexandrova saving each of them with clean winners. When it was Alexandrova who earned yet another break point, McNally stepped up and slammed the comeback door shut with a commanding forehand winner. A moment later, it was the American who capitalised on her fourth set point and brought the match into a deciding set.
McNally withstands Alexandrova comeback to seal the huge win
Rain washed out play after the conclusion of the second set, with both players returning to court a day later to complete the match. Both players came out of the blocks firing on all cylinders, but it was McNally who capitalised on four successive unforced errors from the risk-taking Alexandrova, drawing the first blood for a 3-2 lead.
Playing with confidence and looking to grab the biggest win of her career thus far, McNally extended her advantage to two games with Alexandrova misfiring on the return of serve. Just when the Russian seemed to have lost her focus, she produced some wonderful passing shots, taking three games on the trot to regain the lead.
Technical issues with Hawkeye live frustrated Alexandrova as her serve, comfortably in, was called out and required a replay of the point on two occasions. McNally took advantage of her opponent’s frustration and took the final set into a tiebreak. It was a one-sided affair as Alexandrova sprayed consecutive errors from the baseline, with McNally booking a third-round spot at a Grand Slam for the first time in her career.