Day 1 - Q1R
Q draw was stacked, with many interesting players, and for the most it delivered. Decent to good quality tennis, well contested matches despite the terrible conditions.
Svitolina d. Bratchikova 6-2, 6-4
4 (four) actual spectators in attendance as the first ball was struck.
Immediate impression given by Svitolina - a lightweight puffballer with a nothing game. Her assets aren't immediately apparent - consistency, above average movement and defensive skills and above all good shot selection and control and the ability to deal with unusual game situations (which in these days means "anything other than standard issue baseline power rallies"). This helps explain her successes at the challenger level, but one can't help being left with the impression that she can quite easily be overpowered by a power player on her game - starting with ROS; Svitolina's 1st serve averages c. 150-155 km/h.
Bratchikova had her left knee taped and clearly wasn't match fit - movement was hampered, and she couldn't serve properly.
Bratchikova's FH is a much heavier shot than anything Svitolina has on her own arsenal, and she managed to use it to hit through Svitolina a few times - but also a bit wild, and she overhit it quite often, particularly from once inside the baseline. Tried to boss points on return with aggressive ROS, but the conditions were difficult - both players made use of junk and improvised scooped up shots and Bratchikova struggled the most with it given her physical problems.
First set had no deuces and went by very quickly. Svitolina had her chances to finish she second set much more easily, but it still felt NID.
Puig d. Torro-Flor 0-6, 6-4, 6-4
Puig is fun to watch - her BH is superb, she nails it DTL with the utmost ease, she's very pugnacious and hits very well on the run, making for spectacular rallies.
Torro-Flor is another atypical Spaniard. Her serve is rock solid, extremely well placed, and her instincts are clearly aggressive. She went up 4-3 in the third set after saving 3 BPs with gutsy play, and for a while it seemed Puig had given it her all and still failed to get herself in the lead. However Puig kept up her level and eventually stepped up to serve for the match. Anticlimactic - Puig was serving against the wind (a gale at that time) and under pressure yet Torro-Flor failed to even get the rallies going.
Anastasia Rodionova d. Garcia 7-5, 2-6, 6-1
Same old for Garcia.
Garcia at her best is a scary good flat shotmaker from both sides with one of the best serves you're likely to see at this level. BH, FH, serve all excellent from a purely technical POV. However her court positioning is still very much a work in progress, as she never seems to know when to step in and have a go at the ball and when to rally from behind the baseline. When she was flattening out her shots, Rodionova just couldn't handle her pace. But once pressure sets in she starts adding more spin to her shots and lets herself get dragged into neutral rallies in which all her weaknesses are made apparent - her BH seemed quite consistent for a while, but then there were patches in which she would thrown away whole games with needless errors on apparently easy rally BHs. Her footwork remains very poor, her movement to her BH side atrocious and easily explotaible, her shot selection often retarded. Last three games or so she didn't bother to contest.
Savinykh d. Oudin 3-6 6-2 6-2
From 5-0 for Oudin in the first.
Surprisingly decent quality match between two aggressive baseline grinders with very similar builds and somewhat similar games.
Savinykh is more consistent and has a stronger drive BH; Oudin is more resourceful and more willing to use her BH slice, dropshots and other such cute stuff.
Savinykh has a very solid ground game, but remains as one-dimensional as I remembered her, and her usually solid serve wasn't very effective in this gale. Still, she was always the more solid player and far from the less aggresive one. Last two sets were quite patchy from Oudin, save for a late surge of surprisingly good play from her near the very end of the match.
Konta d. Putintseva 4-6 6-1 7-5
Last two sets. A good match (tightly contested, exciting third set) played before a large crowd for Court 1 standards.
I had seen Konta play at Eastbourne last year and I very much liked what I saw. She has aggressive instincts, a very big game, a very good serve, a rocket of a BH and is excellent at the net. She showed all of that today, particularly the net play - quite a feat at this disgusting muck they call "red clay".
Putintseva on the other hand I had heard a lot about but seen nothing. So I was a bit surprised by what I saw. Her ground game really has very little actual bite - her FH is a whippy moonball she uses mostly to push her opponents back behind the baseline, and she often slices her BH (biting, low bouncing slice even on clay, it must be said). Her serve is as good as it can be considering her size (her service motion is excellent, with some outward similarities with Federer's), but it's still attackable, though not her worst liability. She's extremely pugnacious and a born competitor though - she played her very best at all the key points of the match, but Konta didn't miss enough.
What I liked the most about her game was her ROS - usually a weakness in younger players, let alone players with such a small wingspan as Putintseva. She makes excellent use of a block ROS that is a sign that she has very good hands.