Berlin | Garcia, Kvitova and Vekic open action on Steffi Graf Stadion

At the bett1open, the WTA 500 in Berlin, 3rd-seeded Caroline Garcia defeated local favourite Sabine Lisicki, while Petra Kvitova won an all-Czech battle with Karolina Pliskova and Donna Vekic defeated Varvara Gracheva on Monday to advance to round 2. 

It's funny because we were both practicing at the same place, and we practiced with each other, and [then] we had to face each other in the first round. It's always this kind of story, but it was really complicated ... it's always a good fight, and I'm happy to see Sabine playing in a tournament again. Caroline Garcia

Garcia, from France, was a 7-6(2) 6-3 winner over German wild-card Lisicki, while Kvitova beat Pliskova, 6-3 6-4, and Croatia’s Vekic dispatched Russian Gracheva, 6-3 6-2.

The No 3 seed was made to fight hard on the grass of Steffi Graf Stadion until she made the decisive break at 4-3 in the second set, the Frenchwoman saving the 3 break points she faced and converting 2 from the 13 opportunities she created, while each fired 15 aces apiece.

“It’s funny because we were both practicing at the same place, and we practiced with each other, and [then] we had to face each other in the first round,” Garcia said later. “It’s always this kind of story, but it was really complicated … it’s always a good fight, and I’m happy to see Sabine playing in a tournament again.”

33-year-old Lisicki reached the Wimbledon final in 2013 but has had to contend with numerous injury set-backs in recent years, and currently is ranked at No 308.

Garcia needed an hour and 30 minutes to come through the match, winning 79% of her first-serve points to Lisicki’s 72%, and 58% of her second-serve points to the latter’s 50%.

Their 30 combined aces tie for the second-highest total in a match this year, surpassed only by Veronika Kudermetova’s 1st-round win over Victoria Azarenka at the Adelaide International 2, where the Russian hit 20 aces and the Belarusian added 11 for a total of 31 aces.

In Monday’s showdown, there were zero service breaks in the first set, but a bevy of winners off of both wings gave Garcia a commanding 6-0 lead in the tiebreak, and she held on from there to collect the first set.

At 3-3 in the second set, Garcia finally earned the first service break of the day, converting her 4th break point of that game with a forehand return winner, and the Frenchwoman cruised home after that, closing out the win with one more break for good measure.

Garcia will play a qualifier next, either Australia’s Jaimee Fourlis or Xinyu Wang from China.

In a clash between Top 20 players, Petra Kvitova powered past her compatriot Karolina Pliskova in the 1st-round of the bett1open.


Meanwhile, Kvitova won the 1st-round derby with Pliskova in 75 minutes, the left-hander firing 7 aces to her compatriot’s 12.

It was a difficult 1st-round draw for the No 7 seed, ousting her fellow Czech and notching up her first match-win in two months.

Kvitova won her 30th career singles title at the Miami Open in April, propelling her back inside the Top 10, but she had failed to win a match since that point, withdrawing from Rome due to a foot injury and losing her opening matches at Madrid and Roland Garros.

Back on the grass, the two-time Wimbledon champion regained her winning ways by overcoming former World No 1 Pliskova in a 1-hour and 15-minute duel between Top 20 players, and she now holds a 4-2 lead in their head-to-head.

Kvitova won 80% of her first-serve points, compared to Pliskova’s 71%, and while the latter struggled to win points off her second delivery, Kvitova won 13 returns off the 19 points served by the former World No 1 after she missed her first.

Kvitova, a former World No 2 herself, finished with 26 winners and 19 unforced errors as she scored her first win since landing the Miami Open title.

In fact, the Czechs had an equal number of unforced errors in the match, as Pliskova, now ranked 18, continued her own losing streak, having been defeated in her last 4 matches, with her most recent victory coming over Vekic at Stuttgart in April.

In the 2nd-round, Kvitova will play either Russia’s Nadia Podoroska or Rebeka Masarova from Spain, who play each other on Tuesday.

Vekic, as it turns out, was another 1st-round winner on Monday in Berlin, where she defeated Gracheva in 87 minutes, converting half of her 10 break points on the way to reach the Round of 16, and she now awaits either the No 2 seed, Elena Rybakina from Kazakstan or Russian qualifier Polina Kudermetova.



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