Britain’s Jodie Burrage narrowly lost her qualifying match against No 4 seed Tereza Martincova from the Czech Republic in an action-packed opening day at the Upper Austria Ladies Linz, 6-3 4-6 6-3.
It’s so nice to be back on the court, as it has been such a difficult year. For me last season was also difficult, as I had mononucleosis and I was out for a year. Sabine Lisicki
Martincova goes on to meet Sabine Lisicki, the former World No 12, who received a wild card into qualifying, booked her spot in the second round with a 7-5 6-3 over Bibiane Schoofs, the No 12 seed from the Netherlands.
Lisicki is currently ranked 689 and is playing her first tournament since early September at the Prague Open.
The 2013 Wimbledon finalist has struggled with a variety of injuries and illness during her career and at 31 is, once again, making her way up the rankings.
The German, who held the world record for the fastest serve by a female tennis player between 2014 and 2018, sent down 4 aces and won 70 per cent of her first-service points to advance after an hour and 33 minutes.
“It’s so nice to be back on the court, as it has been such a difficult year,” said Lisicki, who is being coached by her father, Richard, again. “For me last season was also difficult, as I had mononucleosis and I was out for a year.”
Asked about the match, she added: “I lost to her last year. I’m happy that I won. I’m not happy about my serve, as I was a bit inconsistent, but I won the key points and the match.
“I’m still at the beginning. I have to start from scratch. Before the tournament in Prague, I didn’t have a ranking.
“I just went there to see how I’m doing, and I won 3 out of 4 matches, which was nice.
“For me this is also a place to see where I am standing, to keep working on the things that didn’t work and getting ready hopefully for Australia.”
Lisicki’s next challenge for a spot in the main draw is the 26-year old Martincova from Prague.
Earlier in the day, top seed Oceane Dodin from France cruised past Reka-Luca Jani of Hungary, 6-0 6-0.
The World No 114 was in total control of the encounter, didn’t face a break point and converted 6 of her own 7 break-point chances to advance in only 57 minutes.
Dodin takes on No 11 seed Laura Ioana Paar from Romania on Sunday, who benefited from the retirement of Rebecca Sramkova of Slovakia when leading 5-7 7-5 2-0.
Second-seeded Irina Bara, another Romanian, had to go the distance in her first-round match against Katharina Gerlach.
The World No 116 rallied from a set down to overcome the German, 2-6 6-3 6-4, after 2 hours and 35 minutes.
Up next for Bara will be Jana Fett of Croatia, who eased past No 10 seed Hibi Mayo of Japan, 6-2 6-3.
In other action, Katarina Zavatska fought past Croatian wild card entry Ana Konjuh, who appeared in her first WTA Tour match since Budapest in February last year, 6-7(3) 6-4 6-2.
The No 3 seed from the Ukraine outpointed her opponent 113-103 to secure victory in 2 hours and 39 minutes.
“It was a tough match today. I started well the first set and the second set, but I missed my chances, and she took hers,” said Konjuh. “Overall, I know I can play at a higher level, but I’m happy to be back and have a chance to compete.
“I want to thank the tournament director for the wild card and for the opportunity to actually play tennis.
“Hopefully, this is just the start and I’ll have many more matches in the future. All the best and stay safe.”
Zavatska will next take on her compatriot and No 7 seed Anhelina Kalinina, who edged out Isabella Shinikova from Bulgaria, 6-2 3-6 6-3.
In the final two matches of the day, No 5 seed Stefanie Voegele from Switzerland defeated 20-year-old local wild card Veronika Bokor, 6-3 6-1, and No 9 seed Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove from the Netherlands outlasted Norwegian Ulrikke Eikeri, 3-6 6-1 7-5 in almost 2 and half hours of play.
Play in the main draw starts tomorrow, Monday, in which World No 11 Aryna Sabalenka and Elise Mertens lead the title charge at the 30th edition of the Upper Austria Ladies Linz, one of the longest-running women’s tournaments on the WTA Tour.
All players are undergoing strict coronavirus safety protocols and are undergoing quarantine before being able to hit the courts.