Upon arriving in Melbourne, Veronika Kudermetova had plenty to be happy about with her start to the New Year. The 23-year-old was coming off her first WTA final at the 500-level event in Abu Dhabi, where she scored her third Top 5 win over Elina Svitolina among her five victories that week.
One of 72 players confined to a hard quarantine, Kudermetova managed to get six matches under her belt—two singles, four doubles—heading into the season's first major of the year. In her prior two Australian Open appearances, the Russian came out on the losing end of an opening round three-setter.
That's not the case this time around. On Wednesday, Kudermetova turned the tide to beat countrywoman Varvara Gracheva, 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, to equal her best major showing, a third-round effort at the 2019 French Open.
Baseline caught up with Kudermetova afterwards to hear about her experience thus far Down Under and thoughts on playing world No. 2 Simona Halep for a place in the round of 16.
Great turnaround today, especially in the second set when you saved six break points. What adjustments did you make to eventually grab hold of the match?
I think when we started to play the match, I not feeling the ball well, and my movement was very slow. My arm was also very slow. In the second set, I tried to play faster, more aggressive. I tried to do a lot of adjustment steps, to do everything to save the match and turn it around.
Following last week’s event, what was the big focus for you coming into the AO?
When we [were] in hard lockdown, we worked every day on fitness. I tried to hit some balls with my coach. And after, when we [were] out of the room, I tried to have as many hours possible to hit on the court. The previous tournament, first match I played really well. Second match, I have three set points, but I lost that match. Ann Li, I think she played unbelievable because she's fast. She has good reach. She played really good.
But also, I [had] a lot of matches in the doubles. I think I prepared well for the Australian Open. I have only one day of rest [from] practicing before Australia, but I feel well and I [will] try to keep going.
In your career so far, you’ve really delivered against the highest-ranked players. You may get a chance to face another one, this time at a major, in your next round with Simona Halep. What are looking for out of yourself in that potential matchup? (Halep would later rally past Ajla Tomljanovic to confirm this meeting)
If I play against Simona next match, of course, I need to have a good serve, good return. If I have chance, I need to take it, because Simona—she is the fighter, she moves very well. She's [an] unbelievable player. And I need to do my best if I want to win.
Have you ever trained with Simo before?
We practiced with her last year after we restarted the season in Prague. We played one set. I remember I lost 7-5, but it was a good set.
Since coming out of your hard quarantine, have you enjoyed anything in the city so far... restaurants, sight-seeing, strolls around town?
Not yet, because every day I came in the room very late! Before this week, I played doubles. We finished every day around 7:00 and I was tired. I wanted to have some dinner and go to sleep. And also today, it's around seven o'clock now. I want also some rest, watch movies, and that's it.
We have fans, we can go around, we can do whatever we want. We enjoy it here because it's like normal life. I want to go, maybe to the zoo.