Wednesday saw the first matches for the top seeds in both the men’s and women’s draws, as Americans Tennys Sandgren and Danielle Collins hit the courts at George R. Brown Tennis Center at Rice University. Both were competitive matches with small margins of victory, but as Sandgren advanced to the Round of 16, Collins was dispatched by an opponent in fine form.
After two matches finished rather quickly on Court 1, Sandgren took the main stage against Israel’s Edan Leshem. The first set was decided by just one break, with the American capitalizing on his serve to stay the course. In the second, the pair traded breaks, but Sandgren was able to take one more late in the set to close it out 6-3, 7-5.
“It was warmer than yesterday, which was good, I was happy about that,” he said. “I served well for the majority except for when I got broken in the second. He played a good game and got back on serve – he actually hit his backhand return really well and neutralized a lot of my first serves if I didn’t hit it perfect.”
Despite a ranking difference of more than 300 places (Sandgren at No.70 and Leshem at No.406), the top seed had great things to say about his opponent’s game.
“I thought he played a really good all-court game, coming to the net well and volleying incredibly well. I kind of was able to grind and just stick out a few points and make him play a few more shots, and I feel like that was maybe the difference.”
As the top seed on the men’s side, Sandgren recognizes that he is the favorite by ranking, but that anything can happen in a field this deep.
“Everybody’s good and everybody can play, and the level is really strong, even if I am the favorite by a small margin. I do get to play on Court 1, which is nice. I’m just enjoying the fact that I’m able to play and am healthy. Happy to be in Houston.”
Shortly after, Danielle Collins, the World No.31 on the women’s side, took the court to play her second round match. Again, there was a large ranking disparity between her (No.31) and her opponent Anhelina Kalinina (No.161), but that did not intimidate the Ukrainian.
“Today you’re ranked 30, tomorrow you can be 130 and the next day you can be top 10,” said Kalinina. “So it’s a matter of what shape you are in, how you practice and how you play on the day. When you come to the court, you don’t think about the ranking. You just play.”
The match was stopped multiple times due to short rain showers, but the quality of play was not impacted in the slightest, with both players painting the lines with deep, penetrating shots. In the end, it was Kalinina who pulled it out 6-0, 3-6, 6-3.
“Today was a really crazy match,” the Ukrainian said. “I don’t know what to say. I was playing much better at the end of the match. It was a lot of winners from me, I was playing really aggressive and all the balls were landing inside the court. And same for her, she was playing unbelievable – we both played close to the lines, but at the end of the match I played a little bit better.”
Next up for Kalinina is a match against former Top 10 player CoCo Vandeweghe – one that is sure to feature an abundance of aggression and power and is definitely not one to miss.