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Melbourne Summer Series women’s wrap: Serena, Simona on target

  • Matt Trollope

WTA icons Serena Williams and Simona Halep were among the big names progressing on Day 2 of the Melbourne Summer Series on Monday. 

In their first official competitive outings of the new season, Serena and Simona – playing in two separate WTA 500 events – were joined on the winner’s list by Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova and Jelena Ostapenko

Match of the day 

Yarra Valley Classic: Fans in Melbourne got their first glimpse of Williams in action on Monday – and what an impressive sight it was. The 23-time major champion cleanly hit her way to a 6-1 6-4 win over Daria Gavrilova at MCA, ending the contest with a forehand winner down the line. "It feels good to be back here,” said the 39-year-old, who faces Tsvetana Pironkova in the last 16. “I felt that I was definitely composed, and in the zone I guess, and just tried to do the things that I've been working on.”

MORE: WTA Yarra Valley Classic draw

Gippsland Trophy: Top seed Halep survived a challenging encounter against Russian teen Anastasia Potapova, subduing the former Wimbledon junior champ 6-4 6-4 under lights at MCA. 

MORE: WTA Gippsland Trophy draw

"It's a good start. I needed this victory because I didn't play an official match since October last year,” the Romanian said. “I just wanted to feel the court, feel the game. She hits very strong the balls. It was not easy, but I'm happy to go through.” 

Halep, a two-time major champion, next faces either 16th seed Laura Siegemund or Australian wildcard Destanee Aiava.

Simona Halep Melbourne Summer Series
Halep got a test, and a win, on Monday night

Seeds succeeding

Yarra Valley Classic: Joining Williams in the third round was No.3 seed Pliskova, a 6-3 6-2 victor over Elisabetta Cocciaretto. Pliskova will next face 13th seed Danielle Collins, who continued her excellent record in Australia with a 6-2 6-1 win over Nina Stojanovic. Two women notable for deep runs at Roland Garros – eighth seed Marketa Vondrousova and No.14 seed Nadia Podoroska – advanced with straight sets wins, as did No.11 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

Gippsland Trophy: Third seed Svitolina looked solid in a 6-1 6-4 decision against former top-10 player Andrea Petkovic and will next take on 2017 Roland Garros champion Ostapenko – a 6-4 7-5 winner over Danka Kovinic – in a third-round blockbuster. Eighth seed Karolina Muchova was a surprisingly dominant 6-1 6-1 winner over Caty McNally, while No.9 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova came from behind to beat Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in three.

Jelena Ostapenko Melbourne Summer Series
Ostapenko set up a meeting with Svitolina in round three

Welcome back to...

Yarra Valley Classic: Former world No.2 Vera Zvonareva is competing in Australia for the first time in two years, and advanced to the second round with a 6-4 6-7(4) 6-3 over Kristyna Pliskova. Now 36 years of age, ranked No.156 and a mother to four-year-old Evelina, the 2010 Wimbledon and US Open finalist will meet Zhang Shuai for a place in the third round. 

Gippsland Trophy: Katie Boulter, playing in just her fourth tour-level event since April 2019, notched a 6-1 6-3 win over Anna Kalinskaya. The Brit was ranked as high as No.82 two years ago before a back stress fracture forced her off tour for seven months in 2019. Now ranked 371st and having played mostly on the ITF circuit, Monday’s victory was Boulter’s highest tournament-level win since a round-one triumph at AO 2019. 

Epic encounter 

Yarra Valley Classic: Pironkova looked gone against ninth seed Donna Vekic, who led their second-round encounter 6-1 2-0 on Court 7 at Melbourne Park. But the world No.137, in just the fourth event in her comeback from maternity leave, staged a remarkable turnaround to win 12 of the next 16 games. It continues a stellar run of form for the Bulgarian, who since returning to tennis in August at the US Open has won 10 of 12 matches – including all five in 2021. 

Gippsland Trophy: American teen phenom Coco Gauff required two hours and 45 minutes to finally end the challenge of Swiss left-hander Jil Teichmann at MCA. Gauff, seeded No.14 at just 16 years of age, scrapped her way to a 6-3 6-7(6) 7-6(5) win – earning her a shot at Boulter in the second round. “So far on this court I'm 2 and 0, so hopefully I can keep it that way,” laughed Gauff, who beat Venus Williams at the same arena at AO 2020. “(After a good pre-season) I was able to go three tough sets and not feel that tired.” 

Coco Gauff Melbourne Summer Series
Gauff got through after almost three hours on court

Quotes of the day 

“Actually, I haven't looked ahead, but thanks for that (laughter).”
- Destanee Aiava, responding to a journalist who told her she could face Simona Halep in the third round of the Gippsland Trophy. 

"It's really nice to see people here cheering for us, so thank you (for coming). I missed the crowd. It's nice to have some people back.”
- A thankful Simona Halep addressed the crowd at MCA after her win over Anastasia Potapova. 

“I'm always rooting for her, she's like such a great story. Yeah, she's just a good person.”
- Serena Williams on next opponent Tsvetana Pironkova