This is the first post for the 2016 season! Why not start it off with two top 100 Americans hoping to break through this year: Irina Falconi and Coco Vandeweghe. Many people were expecting Coco to win this match, since she is the more aggressive of the two. But surprisingly, Falconi pulled it out in a three set victory 5-7 6-4 6-3. Let’s look at why the hitter lost, and why the counter puncher won.
Let’s start with Falconi. In the first set, she was the player moving backwards. Her mentality was not to be the aggressor, and as a result, whenever she got a shorter ball, she would wait for it behind the baseline. Instead,she should move inside the court and take the ball early. She needs to put the aggressor on the defensive whenever possible. One thing she did well was running around predictable second serves with her forehand, but she was mainly winning points on Coco’s unforced errors. In the second, she was more successful moving forwards and using variety. Even though she began to miss more, those are good errors because she is moving forwards and forcing Coco to go for more difficult shots. One weakness of Falconi that came out in the second set was that she always chose to go to the net at the worst times. She needs to make sure that her approach shots are hard and deep, where her opponent does not have time to set up for a passing shot. If her opponent does have time, she needs to close the net to try to take away any angles. She won because she was more active moving forwards and giving Coco different looks that made her uncomfortable. All hitters want are easy balls to their strike zones.
Now let’s get to Coco. From the start, she was showing Falconi that she is the aggressor, moving forwards on every opportunity. Sometimes, she would even throw in a surprise serve and volley. All was going well for Coco, so how in the world did she lose? She had way too many bad errors. Some unforced errors are considered good errors because you send a signal to your opponent, but when they become too sporadic and unnecessary, that is when they become bad errors. On Falconi’s service games, Coco missed an average of about 2 returns per game, which is like giving Falconi an average of two aces per game. When it was Coco’s serve, Coco would get in the rallies, but then she would try an enormous shot from behind the baseline, which is a bad error because she was not in the position to hit a big shot. Falconi won because Coco ultimately just hit too many bad errors. But as I discussed above, Falconi gets some credit for that and definitely deserves this win!