Top-seeded Monica Niculescu of Romania was knocked out in the first round of the Tashkent Open on Tuesday, falling 2-6, 6-3, 7-5 to 135th-ranked Karin Knapp of Italy.
Niculescu, who was also beaten in the first round of the US Open, looked in control after the first set but was broken decisively in the eighth game of the second. She then lost the final three games of the decider.
Croatian qualifier Donna Vekic upset fourth-seeded Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia 7-6 (3), 6-3, and Russian qualifier Anna Chakvetadze defeated Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine 6-4, 6-3. Eighth-seeded Galina Voskoboeva of Kazakhstan came from a set down to beat Vesna Dolonc of Serbia, 3-6, 6-1, 6-0.
With sliced forehands and smart backhands, Niculescu broke Knapp for 5-4 in their third set. However, the Italian broke straight back and kept on rolling through the final two games, taking advantage of some woeful serving that plagued Niculescu for much of the final two sets.
“Monica is a very unusual player, but I have played her before and knew to win I had to push myself and hit the ball hard,” said Knapp, who has been ranked as high as 35th.
In the other surprise, Vekic held her nerve to down Rybarikova for her first win against a top-100 player. She took a 5-3 lead in the first set but needed four set-points before winning it in the tiebreaker. The second set was easier for the 16-year-old Croatian, as she broke the seasoned Rybarikova twice on her way to the biggest win of her career.