Erakovic advances in straight sets over Cirstea
DAVID LONG IN MELBOURNE
Marina Erakovic hailed her 6-4 7-6 victory over Sorana Cirstea in the first round of the Australian Open as her best ever at the opening Grand Slam of the year.
During the one hour 53 minute match Erakovic won the mental battles against the tournament's 21st seed.
Cirstea won just three of the 14 break points she had, while Erakovic won four of her six, but that doesn't tell the whole story because there were numerous times where Erakovic was able to dig herself out of trouble and never more so than when she was down 6-4 in the second set tiebreak.
There she won four points in a row to set up a match against the world No 152 from Kazakstan Zarina Diyas on Thursday.
Buoyed by a crowd of around 500, which included the 2013 Wimbledon winner Marion Bartoli, who was there to cheer on Cirstea, Erakovic played aggressive tennis throughout and while there were errors from her, she was delighted with the result.
"It was probably the best I've performed at the Aussie Open so far," Erakovic said.
"I knew going into it it was going to be a tough one. I've played Sorana in the past so I kind of knew what to expect.
"She hits the ball really big and I tried to dictate as much as I could. I also tried to take my time, be relaxed with the heat, hydrate and deal with it as best I can and I feel like I ticked all of the boxes."
The match started on court 20 in 41 degree Celsius heat and even those on the sidelines found it tough going, but Erakovic said she knew what the best way was to deal with those conditions.
"Six years ago I played in 42 degree heat against Jelena Dokic in the qualifying tournament and I lost 6-4 6-1 and it was like an out of body experience," she said.
"So I knew what was going to happen. The day before [the match] I drank so much I had to go to the toilet every half an hour. I tried to get as much rest and stay indoors all of the time.
"That first set was tough because I could tell that after running left and right during a point I was feeling it, but if I'm feeling it, she must be too, so let's make her run as well.
"Then in the second set it got a bit cooler, but it definitely was tough."
Before the match Erakovic told Fairfax Media she knew she'd have to play aggressively against Cirstea, who also likes to dictate the points.
"I knew that if I didn't do it that way I would be done for, because once she has the ball and is set for it she's going to rip and I'll be the one running," Erakovic said.
"So I tried my best to hit the forehands as much as I could, if I was in trouble I tried to hit a slice, change the pace, change the height of the ball and give her a different look.
"I wouldn't say it was the best tennis I've ever played, but I felt mentally I dug in and managed to perform at a good level."
When Cirstea was up 6-4 in the tiebreak, the match looked destined to be heading for a deciding set and as the Romanian would have taken the momentum into it, she would have been the favourite to come out on top.
However, Erakovic says she was able to read Cirstea's emotions at that point and realised she still had a chance to take the match right there.
"It was 6-5 and I'd won the point, so I thought she's nervous, she's feeling it and trying to just put the ball in the court," Erakovic said.
"From then on I felt like I'd take a chance and go after it.
"I don't usually hit a backhand down the line, but it's a shot I have and I thought it was a time where she wouldn't be expecting it and it was a good one to finish on.
"This is nice because I didn't have the best of starts to the year." she added.
"It's nice that I managed to find my game and have a bit of confidence and play good tennis. I wouldn't say it's the best tennis of my career or anything like that, but I showed some resilience."
- Fairfax Media