Wed, Aug 09, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Qualifier Lepchenko ousts Ostapenko

STEP BY STEP:Rafael Nadal dismissed talk of returning to No. 1 in the world with a semi-final run, saying that he will focus on the opponent in front of him this week

AFP, TORONTO and MONTREAL

The US’ Varvara Lepchenko returns to Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko in their Rogers Cup women’s singles opening-round match in Toronto on Monday.

Photo: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY

Qualifier Varvara Lepchenko on Monday shocked reigning Roland-Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko, while 37-year-old Venus Williams got off to another shaky start in the opening round of the Rogers Cup in Toronto.

Lepchenko rallied to stun French Open winner Ostapenko 1-6, 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (7/5).

Ninth-seeded Williams also needed three sets and nearly two hours to eliminate qualifier Irina-Camelia Begu 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

American veteran Lepchenko, 31 years old and ranked 68th in the world, trailed 6-1, 3-0 before turning things around against the 12th-ranked Latvian, who had followed up her French Open triumph by reaching the quarter-finals at Wimbledon.

“I think I woke up, I was a little bit in the sleeping mode for a set-and-a-half,” said Lepchenko, a former top-20 player. “All the credit to her, she played amazing tennis — she hardly missed any ball from the very beginning.”

“Once I gave her a little pushback, that’s when the game started. I pretty much focused on my game,” Lepchenko said. “I know I have powerful shots and I’m as good a player as her, so I knew I just had to give my best, and it would be a battle.”

Lepchenko notched her first win this season over a top-20 player and her first since she beat then-15th-ranked Timea Bacsinszky at the US Open last year.

Seven-time Grand Slam champion Williams, who is the oldest player in the draw, faced a stern test from Romanian Begu, who is ranked 59th in the world.

Heading into Monday’s match, Williams had lost five out of seven opening-round matches in the event.

Williams won the match in 1 hour, 56 minutes, despite hitting no aces and making 10 double faults compared with her opponent’s four aces and six double faults.

However, Williams won 68 percent of her first-serve points and was able to break Begu’s serve five times.

Williams advanced to the second round, where she is to face world No. 40 Katerina Siniakova, who defeated qualifier Mariane Duque-Marino 4-6, 6-0, 6-4.

Elsewhere, two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova, seeded 14th, fended off Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1, 7-6 (7/5).

Kvitova breezed through the opening set, but had to battle back from 1-4 down in the second to finish off the Spaniard in straight sets.

Top seed Karolina Pliskova and second-seeded Simona Halep were among the top eight players enjoying first-round byes.

In other early action, Czech Barbora Strycova upset 13th-seeded Kristina Mladenovic of France 6-2, 6-3.

Strycova, ranked 26th in the world, raced to a 5-0 lead in the first set as Mladenovic struggled to find her rhythm.

British qualifier Heather Watson bowed out early, retiring with a shoulder injury while trailing Japan’s Naomi Osaka 6-1, 4-1.

Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens was up 6-2 when Croatian opponent Ana Konjuh retired, the victory sending Flipkens into a second-round clash with fourth-seeded Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza of Spain.

In men’s singles, Rafael Nadal said he will focus on the foes in front of him this week and not on his chance to return to No. 1 in the world.

A semi-final run in Montreal would see the Spaniard supplant Britain’s Andy Murray atop the rankings.

The top seed is to open his campaign for a fourth Canadian title today with a second-round meeting against either Croatian Borna Coric or Russian lucky loser Mikhail Youzhny.

Roger Federer, who seized his 19th Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, is also scheduled to open today.

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