Charleston | Pegula survives, as Collins and Stephens advance

Day 2 at the Credit One Charleston Open in South Carolina saw top seed Jessica Pegula survive a severe scare from Amanda Anisimova, Danielle Collins canter past Paula Badosa, and Sloane Stephens dismiss Magdalena Frech with the loss of just 2 games.

You don't want to go to [Anisimova's] backhand. Her backhand is money. I always say I think she has the best backhand on tour. At least, when everyone asks me, like, which shot would you pick from each player, I usually say her backhand. Jessica Pegula

Pegula rallied from a set down to beat Anisimova, her fellow American, 3-6 6-4 7-6(3), to kick off her WTA 500 Charleston campaign on Tuesday night.

“Nice match on clay, first match,” she said. “Jeez! First match here, tough.”

It took the World No 5 some 2 hours and 26 minutes to prevail against the spirited challenge from the 22-year old, serving 7 aces in the skirmish, and winning just 4 of her 15 break points, while Anisimova converted on 4-of-8 chances.

“It’s always a tough one, playing Amanda, because she is just a really great ball striker, and she can really take the racket out of your hands,” Pegula said, after surviving the battle. “So you know when she’s hot, it’s really tough.

“I just, kind of, had to buckle down, and, I think, I started being a little bit more active with my feet and pressuring her a little bit more, and being able to move her and, kind of, scrap out a few points as well.

“So, yeah, I just, kind of, found a way today, but it was a really great match, I thought, especially the last set was super high level.”

Anisimova’s power game was at the fore in first set, in which she struck 15 winners to Pegula’s 6, streaking out to a 5-0 lead before the top seed got herself onto the scoreboard.

Although she had not played an event since January, Anisimova produced the form that had propelled her to the Australian Open Round of 16 earlier in the year, but Pegula’s impeccable defence kicked into play in the second set, and she broke to love at 5-4 to level the match at a set apiece.

It all came down to a third, where the pair exchanged early breaks and then could not find an edge until Pegula held her first match point at 5-4 on the Anisimova serve, who erased it with a careful rally capped by a passing winner, and the matter had to be settled by a deciding breaker.

Pegula leapt in front, grabbing 5 more match points with a backhand winner for 6-1, but Anisimova, a former Roland Garros semi-finalist, found 2 incredible backhands to reach 6-3, hopeful of a come-back, only to misfire on a forehand on the next point to hand the match to Pegula before a hug at the net between the compatriots.

“You don’t want to go to [Anisimova’s] backhand,” Pegula said. “Her backhand is money. I always say I think she has the best backhand on tour. At least, when everyone asks me, like, which shot would you pick from each player, I usually say her backhand.”

The match ended with Anisimova having 12 more winners than Pegula, but also 23 more unforced errors, while each broke serve 4 times in Pegula’s narrow win.

Pegula next faces Magda Linette in the Last 16, after the Pole pulled off a come-from-behind win of her own on Tuesday, upsetting the No 13 seed from Ukraine, Dayana Yastremska, 0-6 6-4 6-3.

The American defeated Linette in straight sets in their only prior meeting, which was on the hard courts of Miami last year.


Danielle Collins had too much power for Paula Badosa and won in straight sets in Charleston

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Earlier in the day, this year’s Miami Open champion, Danielle Collins, beat Spain’s Paula Badosa, 6-1 6-4, less than 72 hours after she won the biggest title of her career in South Florida on Sunday.

“It’s not easy,” Collins said of the transition to clay. “Sunday, I did the five-hour drive back to my hometown, got to sleep in my own bed. Flew in here on Monday.

“Just getting the clay under my feet. I wasn’t going to miss this tournament, my last season.”

The 30-year old announced she is retiring from the tour at the end of this season, and seems determined to go out in some style.

Collins is now 17-7 for the year, a total that moves her into a tie with Jelena Ostapenko for 5th among top Hologic WTA Tour players.

It was another disappointment for Badosa, though, who is now 5-7, after having missed the last 6 months of 2023 with a spinal stress fracture of the L4 vertebrae, and also dealing with calf and adductor injuries.

Simply, Collins had too much power for the former World No 2, carving out 6 break opportunities against Badosa, and converting 5 of them in their first meeting, having looked the sharper from the beginning, and taking the first 4 games.

Ultimately the first set went by in just 29 minutes, Collins showing no loss of timing from her transition from hard courts to clay.

Badosa gradually found some rhythm, and worked her way back into the second set, holding a break point to level it at 4-all, but Collins fired a big serve and eventually escaped after striking a smooth backhand winner into an open court.

There was drama, though, when a lines person fainted with Badosa serving at 3-5, and medical staff were called and eventually carried him off the court on a stretcher as the players sat in their chairs.

After the significant delay, play resumed, and Badosa held the service game that had been interrupted, but it merely delayed the inevitable as Collins won her next service game to seal the straight sets win.

Collins only had a muted celebration as her first priority after the match was to check on the condition of the line judge, and she was quickly assured he would be okay.

“With everything that happened on the court, oh my gosh my heart broke in half,” said Collins. “I almost started crying, so to try and reset, and come back, and close out that match against a tough competitor, was not easy.

“Most importantly, it looks like he is going to be okay, so that’s the main thing.”

Collins next will play No 2 seed Ons Jabeur from Tunisia in an appealing 2nd-round match on Wednesday, and the two are good friends.

“Ons and I have had some great memories on and off the court,” added Collins. “I took in the New Year with her and her husband last year, and that was pretty fun.

“We all know Ons has a massive fan base, so she will have a lot of support out here, and it should be a great match.

“Coming out here, and having such great support for the athletes, is one of the reasons why this is all our of favourite events.

“We always look forward to coming to Charleston, and this event is doing great things for women’s tennis,” she added.

Collins is now closing in on a return to the Top 20 of the WTA Rankings, and with two more wins this week is likely to secure her return to the elite list.


Sloane Stephens made short work of Magdalena Frech on her favourite surface, clay, on Tuesday

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Meanwhile, Sloane Stephens, the 2017 US Open champion, easily defeated Magdalena Frech from Poland, 6-0 6-2, and later confessed she is playing on her favourite surface.

“It’s more athletic,” she said. “It’s more running, more sliding, just a lot more adversity I feel, like, but in a good way. When you think the point is over, it’s never over.”

Stephens had won both of her previous encounters with Frech, but the most recent had been a 3-set barn-burner in the 1st-round of Parma in 2022, which she eventually won, 3-6 6-3 6-4.

There were no such struggles in the rematch on her home soil, as the 31-year-old dropped just 12 points in the first set, lost her serve only once at the start of the second, and struck 16 winners to 13 unforced errors all told, with her off forehand firing particularly smoothly.

Stephens takes on the 2021 US Open finalist, Leylah Fernandez, next, and the Canadian has won all 3 of their prior encounters, at Monterrey 2020, Lexington 2020 and the Grampians Trophy 2021, the latter two in straight sets, but this will be their first meeting on clay.

“My arch-nemesis in my mind,” said Stephens with a laugh in her on-court interview. “I’m just going to come out here, and try to play my best on a new surface.”

3rd-seeded Maria Sakkari of Greece also advanced with a 6-3 6-4 win over Viktoriya Tomova from Bulgaria, while America’s Taylor Townsend took out her compatriot Sofia Kenin, 6-3 6-3, lucky loser Astra Sharma, won all Australian battle with Arina Rodianova, 6-4 6-1, Caroline Dolehide edged past American compatriot Kayla Day, 6-3 0-6 6-4, and Italy’s Elisabetta Cocciaretto squeaked past Ana Bogdan from Romania, 2-6 6-1 7-6(6).


No 3 seed Maria Sakkari advanced to round 3 with a routine win over Viktoriya Tomova on Day 2 of the Charleston Open on Tuesday

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