Wrapping herself in an ice vest, draping her neck with an ice pack and flooding her system with cool water, the heat proved a far bigger obstacle for Caroline Wozniacki than her first round opponent on Tuesday at Melbourne Park.
Despite the sapping conditions and the drained wave she mustered for the crowd following her 6-0 6-2 victory over world No.72 Lourdes Dominguez Lino, the Dane will no doubt be pleased to have avoided the most brutal heat of the day while securing her place in the second round of Australian Open 2014 after relatively little time on court.
When you play a game in the mould of Dominguez Lino, you’re never going to a hit a lot of winners. The diminutive Spaniard prefers to camp herself on the baseline and direct heavily top-spun balls around the court until she extracts an error – it’s a game that relies on the utmost consistency.
Except that today, consistency was not a feature of her game. Time and time again, routine shots were sprayed long, wide or into the net, off both forehand and backhand wings.
Wozniacki, something of a grinder herself, simply had to ensure she kept her shots safe and deep, and wait for the Spaniard to miss. Which Dominguez Lino did, 12 times to be exact, in a set that lasted just 25 minutes.
The last two points were a microcosm of Dominguez Lino’s set – a poorly-executed drop shot sent into the net was followed by a wild double fault.
Although Wozniacki was content to play her typical brand of consistent baseline tennis, she was admirably proactive against her embattled opponent.
In the first game of the second set, the Dane stepped in and banged a backhand winner up the line to bring up game point, before another error from the Spaniard handed her a 1-0 lead.
Just as she looked set to completely run away with the match, the tenth seed’s level dipped. She netted two consecutive forehands to hand Dominguez Lino her first game – accompanied by a hearty cheer from the Hisense Arena crowd – and the Spaniard then got on a mini-roll, benefitting from three straight Wozniacki errors in the third game to break for a 2-1 lead.
That’s where the roll stopped.
Wozniacki, deciding to step it up to both nullify an energised opponent and put a swift end to a match being played in increasingly searing temperatures, leaned more into her shots, forcing errors on her way to breaking back for 2-2.
As the winners flowed more frequently from the Dane’s racquet and the errors returned to Dominguez Lino’s game, Wozniacki reeled off four straight games to close out the match.
It ended, appropriately, with a 30th unforced error from the Spaniard – her fourth in the final game alone – after one hour and seven minutes.
Next up for Wozniacki is a second round date with American Christina McHale, a former world No.24.