Top seed Sabine Lisicki roared back from a 0-2 deficit in the second set to overpower France’s Virginie Razzano 6-4, 6-4 and advance to the second round of the Auckland Classic yesterday.
The world No. 15 had comfortably romped through the first set, but found herself down a break in the second and Razzano serving to go 3-0 ahead.
However, the German 22-year-old rallied with some blistering returns of serve and ground-strokes to break Razzano back and then win the next three games in quick succession to seize control of the match.
Lisicki, who was troubled with injury at the start of last year, but who recovered to reach the semi-finals of Wimbledon and finish the year inside the top 20 for the first time, showed some signs of rust with her serve, giving up seven double faults.
“I lost a bit of concentration there, but I kept going and its fine for the first match,” Lisicki said in a courtside interview. “It’s the first match of the year and I was struggling a little bit with my serve, but it means I still have to work on a few things and that’s good that way. I can still improve.”
Fourth seed Flavia Pennetta, a beaten finalist on the Auckland hard courts in 2010, also advanced to the second round after she was forced to battle against Romania’s Sorana Cirstea.
The Italian eased through the first set, but found the battling Cirstea far tougher to break down in the second as the Romanian forced a tiebreak in which she held a 3-1 lead, before Pennetta rallied to secure a 6-4, 7-6 (7/5) victory.
The tournament lost its major draw Venus Williams less than two weeks ago through illness, though New Zealand wild-card Sacha Jones provided the crowd with something to cheer about when she took the second set in her clash with Britain’s Elena Baltacha.
However, the 21-year-old Jones, who is switching nationalities and will join the better funded Australian program after the tournament, was unable to sustain the recovery and was beaten 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 by Baltacha, who advanced to meet Pennetta.