Maria Sakkari and Jelena Ostapenko, seeded 5 and 12 respectively, were early winners on Day 2 of The Championships at Wimbledon, both in straight-sets.
Our goal is to approach the net 20 times in a match. Not serve and volley 20 times, just get to the net 20 times. Whether I can do it or not, that’s the goal. That’s what gets me into a more aggressive mindset. I believe this year that’s one of the reasons why I’ve been playing good, because my mindset has changed and my whole game style has changed and improved. Maria Sakkari
Sakkari comfortably progressed to the 2nd-round, 6-1 6-4, against Australian qualifier Zoe Hives, ensuring a a smooth start to her campaign.
It took her an hour and 18 minutes, and the only spot of bother she encountered came when she was unable to close out a 5-2 lead in the second, missing a match point on Hives’ serve in that game and then conceding her serve in the next but, eventually, she converted her 3rd match point on the Australian’s serve.
Coming into this year’s tournament the Greek has won just 6 matches in 5 appearances at The All England Club, with her best run being to the 3rd-round twice.
“Wimbledon is Wimbledon. It’s probably one of most special, if not the most special, tournament of the year,” Sakkari told reporters during her press conference. “There’s something very unique about it.
“I’m very motivated only by being here. It’s always an honour, no matter what ranking you have, being here. It’s a great reward for what I have achieved.”
Hives, who had only ever beaten a top 100 player twice in her career, was nursing an upper left leg injury and posed few problems for Sakkari as she achieved the win in just over 70 minutes with the help of 19 winners and 5 aces.
“I’m feeling very good. Obviously I had the chance to close out the match sooner than I did, but overall I think was a very solid performance,” said Sakkari.
As the fifth seed Sakkari has high expectations, especially given her performances at other major tournaments, reaching the semi-finals of both the French Open and US Open last year, plus she reached her first grass-court semi-final in Berlin a couple of weeks ago.
“I believe that, on the clay, I try to play with more height, try to use more my forehand,” she said. “On fast surfaces like grass or fast hard court, I always try to be more aggressive, obviously trying to hit hard with both of my shots.
“Tennis is becoming a very quick sport right now, so you have to be aggressive. That’s what I’m trying to do every time I play a match, no matter what surface I’m playing.”
Sakkari’s aggressive approach to the game has been developed with the help of Tom Hill, a British coach who mentored Danielle Collins before joining forces with the Greek back in 2018.
“Our goal is to approach the net 20 times in a match,” she said. “Not serve and volley 20 times, just get to the net 20 times. Whether I can do it or not, that’s the goal. That’s what gets me into a more aggressive mindset.
“I believe this year that’s one of the reasons why I’ve been playing good, because my mindset has changed and my whole game style has changed and improved.”
The 26-year-old has another chance to test her skills when she face Bulgaria’s Viktoriya Tomova in her next match, who outlasted another Aussie, Daria Saville, a wild-card into the main draw, 7-5 3-6 7-5.
Marta Kostyuk was another winner on Day 2, overcoming British wild-card Katie Swan, 4-6 6-4 6-4, in 2 hours and 10 minutes, to become the third Ukrainian player out of four in the main draw to reach the second round, with the fourth, Dayana Yastremska, yet to play her opener.
Ostapenko, the 2017 French Open champion, who reached the semi-finals here in 2018 and was a finalist at Eastbourne at the weekend, also advanced in impressive fashion after beating Oceane Dodin from France, 6-4 6-4.
The Latvian had already defeated Dodin this year in the first round of Doha amid a stellar Middle East swing, and reprised that form in a clash of no-holds-barred aggressive hitting from both players.
Although 85th-ranked Dodin’s power was as breathtaking as Ostapenko’s at times, it was the former Roland Garros champion who dominated in every category.
Ostapenko found 29 winners to the Frenchwoman’s 10, won 70% of her first-serve points to Dodin’s 63%, and 50% of her second-serve points to Dodin’s 38%, while 9 aces also helped the Latvian’s cause considerably.
She also repeatedly upped her game when under threat and although she failed to serve out the first set at 5-3, squandering a set point after mishitting a backhand, Ostapenko denied Dodin 2 chances to level the set at 5-5 in the next game, and then broke for the set on her 4th set point.
Three consecutive double-faults saw the Latvian drop serve to trail 3-2 in the second, but a series of searing forehands saw her break back immediately while, at 4-4, Ostapenko saved a break point with an ace, then found 3 clean return winners to break Dodin for the match.
Ostapenko also won the point of the match at 4-3, a high-octane rally in which both players’ power drew gasps from the Court 17 crowd, which the 12th seed ended with a forehand winner.
She will next play former US Open semi-finalist Yanina Wickmayer, currently making her return from maternity leave and ranked 606 and who had come through qualifying, defeated Zhu Lin from China, 6-4 6-2 in 1 hour and 21 minutes for her first Grand Slam main draw win since the 2020 Australian Open.
Meanwhile, Alizé Cornet celebrated equalling the all-time record of consecutive Grand Slam main draw appearances with a win over Yulia Putintseva from Kazakstan, upsetting the 27th seed, 6-3, 7-6(5), on her 62nd consecutive appearance in a Grand Slam main draw, which equalled Ai Sugiyama’s all-time record.
After reaching her first major quarter-final at the Australian Open in January, Cornet stated that the all-time record of consecutive Grand Slam main draw appearances was one of her goals in the home stretch of her career, and the 32-year-old, whose streak dates back to the 2007 Australian Open, is now just one US Open appearance away from achieving that.
Cornet was victorious in one of the highest-quality matches of Wimbledon so far, in which both players showed off counter-punching resilience and creative shotmaking.
Putintseva came up with the shot of the match, a lob that landed smack on the corner of the court to reach set point at 6-5 in the second set, but Cornet’s grass-court prowess proved decisive and the Frenchwoman improved her head-to-head against Putintseva to 4-0.