Hey y'all. So I was finally able to get a day off work during which it didn't rain so I made it out to the tournament to watch most of the early matches so I'll you guys up with some reports. Some of this stuff you all may have seen on livestream, some of it you probably didn't. The first thing to note was definitely that it was much, much cooler than last the last couple of days so conditioning wasn't as much of a factor in the longer matches.
Catalina Castano def (WC) Jamie Loeb: 6-3, 6-1
- First set
I got there as these two were warming up and they looked fairly evenly matched as they rallied. The first thing I noticed about Castano's game was how extreme her grip on her forehand was. Throughout the match she had a little bit of trouble flattening it out but her shot was much heavier than Loeb's throughout the match. Her backhand was flattened out quite a bit more and did some solid damage. Jamie's game looked pretty robotic, especially her backhand. Her elbows stayed bent throughout the entire shot and she never really swung out on it. Her serve was the same way, elbow stayed bent and her toss was really low. She could definitely do a lot of work on her whole game, but her serve would be a solid place to start. As soon as play started it was fairly obvious that this match would be Castano's to win and it was up to her how quickly it was over. Her shots were heavier and although her more aggressive attempts only went in about 50% of the time, it was still more than enough to handle Loeb. Unless Jaime adds something to her game I can't imagine her having more than an Ashley Weinhold type career, but I could be wrong as stranger things have happened.
(3) Kurumi Nara def. (LL) Alexandra Mueller: 6-2,6-3
- Second set
The height difference between these two was hilarious and it was obvious that Alex was trying to use her height advantage to overpower Nara but she actually ended up being outhit on quite a few points as her opponent absorbed her pace and sent it right back even quicker. With her size I expected Alex's serve to be better but the motion was clunky and it looked like she was leaving some potential effectiveness out. Her toss was very Kleybanova-esque with the odd neck contortion. There aren't a whole lot of interesting notes to make about this match as it was a very straight-forward affair. Nara was clearly a couple classes above Alex, who really doesn't look much like a tennis player but has more of a volleyball build.
(2) Julia Glushko def. Shuko Aoyama: 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(10)
- First and third sets
This was definitely the match of the day but it was an absolute choke-fest of epic proportions from both sides. Julia started out on fire and was up 3-0 with two break points for a second break when Aoyama started digging her feet in. Once she squeaked out that game Julia totally lost the plot. Her controlled aggression turned into brainless ballbashing with random moonballs thrown in at seemingly random times. Her temper started getting the best of her after some calls she didn't agree with. After one particular call at the end of the set she launched a ball out of the stadium on the shot after a ball of Aoyama's she thought sailed over the baseline. To her credit though she got herself back together after losing six straight games to lose the first set. When I came back to this match Glushko was up 2-0 in the third but still wasn't playing particularly well. She couldn't really take advantage of Aoyama's horrendous serving display (she was no doubt in the double digits for double faults), Aoyama's flat shots absorbed Julia's power, and the crowd was increasingly against her. She went through patches of very positive conversations with herself followed by points of obvious tanking, it was fascinating to watch. Aoyama's first matchpoint came serving at 5-3 but an ill-advised net approach gave Julia an easy passing shot. The next three games went Glushko's way but of course the match had to end in a third-set breaker. Julia went up 5-2 in the breaker before having her first matchpoint at 6-5 and another at 7-6. Then Aoyama had two more matchpoints at 8-7 and 10-9 while saving one at 9-8. The final nail in Shuko's coffin was her final double-fault on match point at 10-9, after which she looked completely dejected and went down tamely in the last two points.
Julie Coin def. (7) Irina Falconi: 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(5)
- First two sets
This match was pretty evenly matched the entire way through just because each girl went through phases of playing well but neither could find their range at the same time. Coin was clearly the better ballstriker but she had almost no game whatsoever when moved more than a couple of feet in any direction. In the first set she was able to keep Falconi on the ropes and therefore was able to win the set just by hitting through the American. In the second set, Falconi started moving Coin around much more often and imposed her own will a bit better. Eventually Coin made enough errors while trying to hit shots on the run that Falconi was able to scrape out the second set, but clearly not the match. Overall I saw more evidence of Coin's former top-100 form than Falconi's. Irina is a solid player in her own right but she certainly didn't look to be the future of American tennis today.
Nicha Lertpitaksinchai def. (6/WC) Grace Min: 6-2, 4-6, 6-1
- end of the second set and whole third set
Grace is the absolute definition of a ball-machine type player. Every ground stroke looked the same, her expression never wavered, and she was feeding balls straight into Lertpitaksinchai's wheelhouse all afternoon. I was expecting the Thai to be totally underwhelming today after reading some other impressions of her but she was hitting really well today. Her backhand wasn't nearly as dire as I expected it to be and her forehand was clearly the biggest shot on the court when she had time, which was pretty often. However her serve was mediocre for her height and probably is the only reason this match went three sets to begin with. The third set was total one-way traffic as Lertpitaksinchai stayed calm and collected while Grace's consistency went out the window. She was missing routine shots left and right and throwing in double-faults pretty often as well. The issue is that she wasn't being nearly aggressive enough with these shots to make them at least understandable misses, she was just totally off her game today.
(8)Chanel Simmonds def. (Q) Lauren Embree: 7-6(4), 1-6, 6-4
- End of the first and third sets
This is the match that I was least excited to watch as I had seen both of these girls play before and I knew I would be in for nothing exciting. Besides that, Embree may be my least favorite player to watch in history. She's got the extended two syllable grunt, she just loops every ball back with very little pace or intent, and she's entirely too demanding of herself for the amount of influence she actually has over the outcome of the match. There were quite a few 30-40 ball rallies just in the time that I was watching and they consisted of Embree putting the ball just inside the service line while Simmonds hit a no-pace forehand right back at her. If Chanel had played with any sort of aggressive intention at all this match wouldn't have lasted anywhere close to the 3+ hours that it did. But she seemed content to push right back at Lauren and drag it out. By the end of the match, all of the spectators were ready for it to be over but of course Simmonds couldn't close it out with less than 8 match points after choking at least a 5-2 lead back to 5-4. The entire thing was a mess.
Another note, I didn't see Shelby Rogers play her match but I watched her practice in the morning with Chiara Scholl. She definitely doesn't look as unfit as most people are under the impression I just don't think she has the classic tennis player build. She doesn't have as much extra weight as she's just more solidly built and has a naturally more stocky physique.
If anyone has any more questions about the day's events I'll try my best to answer them.