Berlin | Jabeur and Sakkari cruise as Sabalenka and Muguruza exit early

At the bett1open in Berlin on Tuesday, top seeds Ons Jabeur and Maria Sakkari opened with routine straight-set wins over Karolina Muchova and Leolia Jeanjean respectively, but Aryna Sabalenka and Garbiñe Muguruza, the 3rd and 5th seeds, failed to get beyond the first round, losing to Veronika Kudermetova and Andrea Petkovic.

I really do believe that, in these really close matches, the simple and little shift of energy can make the difference. If you have the crowd on your side, and they are willing you to the win somehow, I think that can really make a difference. Andrea Petkovic

Tunisia’s Jabeur needed just 73 minutes to advance 6-3 6-3 over the Czech, Muchova, while Sakkari of Greece easily dispatched France’s Jeanjean, 6-3 6-2.

Now ranked No 4 in the world, Jabeur was playing her first match since a first round defeat to Magda Linette in Paris on clay, and she broke serve 3 times in a comprehensive win on the grass that saw her win the last 4 games of the opening set, and take an early 3-0 lead in the second to beat Muchova in their first-ever meeting.

The Czech was also playing her first match since Roland Garros, where she was forced to retire in the final set of her 3rd round match against American Amanda Anisimova after suffering an ankle injury earlier in the match.

On this day, Jabeur racked up 4 aces and saved all 4 break points she faced, 3 of which came at 0-40 in the opening game of the second set.

“A great start, especially playing a tricky player,” Jabeur said after her 26th win of the year. “I’m pretty good with my game, but there’s a few things that I need to improve more and get used to grass.

“It was a tricky match with a lot of drop-shots, but I want to keep improving, but yeah, overall I’m enjoying playing here and hopefully I can continue to play better.”

As she becomes more comfortable on the grass after switching from the clay, Jabeur will next face Alycia Parks after the American got past 19-year old Zheng Qinwen from China, 6-3 7-6(4), who won her first WTA 125 tournament on clay on Sunday.

“I like playing on it, it reminds me of playing football,” she said of grass. “I had a lot of time to prepare and adapt, but hopefully the journey will continue for me here.”

Jabeur is already eyeing next week when she will play doubles with Serena Williams, who has accepted a wild-card into Wimbledon and plans to warm up on the grass at Eastbourne.

“Still over the moon with the news,” Jabeur said after her first-round win in Berlin. “Hopefully we’re going to make a great team.

“I cannot wait to play with her, such a legend. I’ve always loved Serena, the way she plays, the way she is on court and outside the court.”


Maria Sakkari saw off Leolia Jeanjean in Berlin on Tuesday

© Nathan Stirk/Getty Images for LTA

Meanwhile, second-seeded Sakkari took 83 minutes to ease into the second round with her straight sets win over Jeanjean, a qualifier, avenging her loss to the Frenchwoman in their only previous meeting in 2013 while both were ranked outside the Top 500.

Jeanjean had a breakthrough event mere weeks ago when she stunned Top 10 player Karolina Pliskova on her way to the 3rd round at Roland Garros, her home Grand Slam, as a wild-card, a result that propelled her to a new career-high ranking of World No 149.

Sakkari, though, who is now a Top 10 player, stopped Jeanjean adding another upset to her resume on the grass courts of Berlin, winning an astounding 92 percent of her first-service points and never facing a break point all day.

Next, Sakkari will meet Australian qualifier Daria Saville, a former Top 20 player, with whom she has split two previous meetings.


Veronika Kudermetova came back from the brink to upset 3rd-seeded Aryna Sabalenka on Tuesday in 3 sets in the first round

© Sander Koning/ANP/AFP via Getty Images

Sabalenka, the 3rd seed, blew a one-set lead against Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova, who fired 10 aces to rally past the Belarusian, 2-6 7-5 6-4, in 2 hours 11 minutes.

Trailing 6-2, 5-2, Kudermetova clawed her way back from the brink, having never won a set in 3 prior meetings against Sabalenka, and rallied for a first win against her while never facing a match point.

Kudermetova has now beaten a Top 10 player on all 3 surfaces in 2022, starting in February on hard courts with a win over Muguruza, and defeating Paula Badosa on the clay of Roland Garros en route to her first Grand Slam quarter-final.

Both players came into their second grass-court event of the summer in form, with Sabalenka the runner-up to Ekaterina Alexandrova at the Libema Open last weekend, while Kudermetova also lost to the eventual champion in the semi-finals.

Up next for Kudermetova is this week’s defending champion Liudmila Samsonova, who was a 7-5 6-1 winner over Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek in Round 1.


Andrea Petkovic had the home crowd behind her as she upset 5th-seeded Garbiñe Muguruza in Berlin

© Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP via Getty Images

Elsewhere, Muguruza’s disappointing season continued as she lost in straight sets to German Andrea Petkovic, 7-6(8) 6-4, who notched up her first win over a Top 20 player on grass, much to the delight of the home crowd.

Petkovic, a former Top 10 player herself, took 2 hours and 6 minutes to grab 2 tough sets against the former World No 1, and she now holds 4-1 career record against Muguruza.

“I really do believe that, in these really close matches, the simple and little shift of energy can make the difference,” Petkovic said after her home-soil victory. “If you have the crowd on your side, and they are willing you to the win somehow, I think that can really make a difference.”

Now ranked 59, Petkovic was 0-9 against Top 20 players on grass before her latest win over the Spaniard.

Muguruza came back from an early break down to reach the first-set tiebreak, where she held 2 set points at 6-4, but a nervy double-fault and 2 missed returns gave Petkovic the first of her 3 set points, and the German eventually eked out the set with a drop-shot winner.

Petkovic then broke Muguruza with a winning put-away in the first game of the second, and the German saved 4 break points while consolidating for 2-0.

Although Muguruza erased 4 match points at 5-3 with powerful play, Petkovic served out the match to love in the next game.

The German will next face Aliaksandra Sasnovich for a spot in the quarter-finals.

“For me, [Sasnovich is] a very uncomfortable opponent, I’ve lost to her the last few times,” Petkovic said. “Hopefully I will find a better solution this time and change a few things, and just talk through it with my team and be prepared.”


Belinda Bencic had her hands full against home favourite June Niemeier but prevailed

Sander Koning/ANP/AFP via Getty Images

In another battle on Tuesday, 8th-seeded Belinda Bencic from Switzerland also advanced in 3 very tight sets over Germany’s Jule Niemeier, 6-4 5-7 6-3, after sparring for 2 hours and 22 minutes;

Last year’s Olympic gold medalist had to work hard to hold off the German wild-card in a re-match of their first-round clash from last year.

Bencic, who was runner-up to Samsonova in Berlin last season, converted 5 of her 9 break points on the day, withstanding a barrage of 15 aces from the homeland hope, who made her Top 100 debut just last month.

The Swiss eventually prevailed to prevent Niemeier from claiming her first Top 20 victory, and will now face another wild-card in Anna Kalinskaya from Ukraine, in the second round.

Kalinskaya, who beat the tricky Frenchwoman Alizé Cornet, 6-4 6-4, heads into the match against Bencic knowing she lost to the Swiss in the same round in ‘s-Hertogenbosch last week.

In other results, Alexandrova outplayed Maryna Zanevska from Belgium, 6-3 6-3; while Wang Xinyu of China outran German Tamara Korpatsch, 3-6 6-3 6-4, in a battle between 2 qualifiers.


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