Eighth seed Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic advanced past Russian wild-card Margarita Gasparyan and into the second round of the Kremlin Cup in Moscow on Monday.
On the opening day of the joint WTA and ATP US$1.5 million tournament, the left-hander beat the 18-year-old home favorite 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 in 2 hours, 2 minutes.
Moscow-born Gasparyan started confidently, taking a 3-1 lead with an early break, but Safarova than moved up a gear to win five consecutive games for a one-set lead in 38 minutes.
The opponents traded breaks early in the second set and then held serve until the 10th game, when Gasparyan, ranked 227th in the world, broke again to level it after 1 hour, 27 minutes on court.
In the deciding set, Safarova, a semi-finalist in Moscow last year, was in complete command, breaking her rival’s serve twice, before serving out the match at love.
“I met her for the first time and I didn’t know who I was playing against while she was serving very well and took the lead, but I kept on fighting and won the first set,” Safarova said.
“I was a bit down in the second, allowing her to level, but I caught my tennis right away at the beginning of the third to take the set and the match. I’m happy to win tonight,” she said.
Safarova next faces compatriot Klara Zakopalova, who ousted Alexandra Cadantu of Romania 6-3, 6-3.
Poland’s Urszula Radwanska beat 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone of Italy, unseeded in Moscow, 6-3, 6-1 to record her second win over the 32-year-old veteran in as many meetings.
Schiavone, the 2009 Kremlin Cup champion, started with an immediate break, but Radwanska broke back twice to grab a 1-0 lead in 41 minutes.
In the second set, Radwanska, who is still seeking her maiden WTA title, underlined her domination by breaking Schiavone’s serve on three more occasions to set up a meeting with third seed Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark.
In ATP action, sixth seed Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan battled back from a set down to beat Germany’s Bjorn Phau 5-7, 7-5, 6-1.
In a match for a place in the quarter-finals Istomin faces Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic, who beat Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver in straight tiebreaks.
Eight seed Tatsuma Ito of Japan also advanced to the second round, beating another Spaniard, Roberto Bautista-Agut, 6-3, 1-6, 6-2.
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World No. 1 Tai Tzu-ying yesterday eased past her Thai opponent to advance to the second round of the Toyota Thailand Open. The Taiwanese star toppled world No. 46 Supanida Katethong 21-16, 21-11 in 29 minutes at the Impact Arena in Bangkok. “I think I played OK today. I am feeling a little better than last week,” Tai said. Tomorrow, Tai faces Indonesia’s Gregoria Mariska Tunjung. The two have faced each other six times, with Tai beating the world No. 21 in all six matches. Tai on Sunday reached the final of the Yonex Thailand Open before losing decisively against Carolina Marin of Spain.
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Three new COVID-19 cases yesterday hit the Australian Open’s troubled buildup as a backlash grew against international tennis players flown in during a raging pandemic. Two of the new cases were players, state health officials said, taking the total infections to seven since more than 1,000 people arrived in largely COVID-19-free Australia on charter flights last week. The Victoria Department of Health and Human Services said that the two players and a third person associated with the tournament — a woman in her 20s, and two men in their 30s — had returned positive results. The year’s first Grand Slam, delayed three weeks,