The lack of match play showed in Johanna Konta as she was comfortably outplayed by the in-form Shelby Rogers, 6-2 6-2, in an hour and 12 minutes at the Adelaide International on Tuesday night, while, elsewhere, Yulia Putintseva needed to fight hard to get past Laura Siegemund, and Storm Sanders made it 3 wins a row.
I started the match really well with a quick break and I kept the momentum going. I knew I had to bring my best game for Jo, who can serve you off the court whenever she wants. I was very happy with my return game tonight, and I am excited to be in the quarter-finals. Shelby Rogers
Seeded 3 in Adelaide, Konta withdrew from the Australian Open midway through her opening match against Kaja Juvan with an abdominal injury.
It is another setback for the 29-year old British No 1, who has had on-going issues with a knee and other injuries over the past year or so, but there was no sign of the problem on Tuesday as she fought to gain a foothold on the match.
Rogers, the World No 53, however, delivered a near-flawless performance, committing just 2 unforced errors in the first set and 8 in the second to 23 winners overall and, as a result, Konta was unable to gain any rhythm.
“I can’t feel much better than that,” said the American, who is fresh off a run to the AO21 4th round and has booked her place in the last 8 here. “I wish I could bottle up that match and keep it for a later date.”
Rogers repeatedly teed off on Konta’s serve, breaking the Briton 4 times in total in a returning masterclass.
She was able to dominate with her own delivery in the first set, losing just 4 points behind it, but had to withstand somewhat more pressure in the second in which she faced a break point in 3 separate games, and staved them all off with her strong serving.
“I started the match really well with a quick break and I kept the momentum going,” Rogers said afterwards on court. “I knew I had to bring my best game for Jo, who can serve you off the court whenever she wants.
“I was very happy with my return game tonight, and I am excited to be in the quarter-finals.”
Rogers awaits the winner of her compatriot Coco Gauff’s last-16 match with 6th seed Petra Martic from Croatia.
Meanwhile, No 7 seed Yulia Putintseva from Kazakstan edged Germany’s Laura Siegemund, 6-4 6-4, in a first-round match that contained a plethora of touch shots, extended all-court exchanges and a decent dose of drama.
It was a match that did not disappoint as both showed off their fondness for the drop-shot as well as supreme defensive skills.
Putintseva fired herself up to play her best tennis at the end of each set, with the Kazakh’s lobs particularly on point.
In the first set, she came from a break down at 3-4 to run off the next 4 games, and when Siegemund threatened a similar turnaround in the second, levelling at 3-3 from a break down, Putintseva held firm during a tempestuous passage of play in which both players’ tempers frayed.
“I never had such a tough opponent who was trying to do everything possible to win the match,” said Putintseva afterwards. “She was doing everything on court – slicing, drop-shots, coming to net.
“So I was mentally ready for no rhythm at all. I was just trying to move my feet as fast as I can and to find the right shot to finish it.”
Elsewhere, qualifier Storm Sanders continued a career-best week with a 6-1 6-2 defeat of fellow Australian Ajla Tomljanovic.
Sanders, who rose to a high of World No 202 as a 19-year-old in February 2014 after upsetting Peng Shuai in Hobart that year, began a singles comeback in 2019 and this week has seen the World No 292 score her first two Top 100 victories since then, beating Bernarda Pera to qualify and now Tomljanovic.
Buoyed by reaching her first Grand Slam semi-final in the AO21 mixed doubles last week, the 26-year-old is brimming self-belief as she overpowered Tomljanovic, striking 8 winners in a 25-minute opening set and did not face a break point on serve.
“I served really well tonight,” Sanders said. “I was hitting my spots and mixing it up.
“I was just trying to be aggressive and play my game. It was a big match for me tonight, my first WTA 500 main draw,”.
She continued her momentum in the second, racing ahead 4-1 with a double break while Tomljanovic found no solutions, with Sanders sealing the 3rd WTA main draw win of her career.
“I’ve never played against Ajla before. ,” Sanders said. “She’s obviously a very good player and strikes the ball really, really well.
“To be honest, I was under no pressure … I was just out here, having a good time.”
It continues a sensational run this week for Sanders, who finished tonight’s match with 17 winners to Tomljanovic’s 5.
As a wild card in the qualifying draw, Sanders recorded her biggest win in 7 years to defeat World No 65 Bernarda Pera from the USA in the opening round, and then sealed her place in the main draw with a straight-sets win against World No 113 Caty McNally, also from the US.
Sanders next plays World No 28 Putintseva in Wednesday’s second round to try to make it 4 matches in a row.
The two top seeds, Ash Barty and Belinda Bencic, begin their campaigns on Wednesday with America’s Danielle Collins and lucky loser Misaki Doi from Japan lining up for them respectively in round 2.