Hobart | Mertens, Kenin and Navarro advance, as Stephens stumbles

Two Grand Slam champions feature in a quality field at the hardcourt Hobart International 2024 tournament this week, but only one has made it into round 2, and that is Sofia Kenin, who won the Australian Open in 2020, while Sloane Stephens, the 2017 US Open winner, was edged out by a qualifier.

It's my first top 50 win in a while. I have come close, so really nice after all of my injuries and so nice to be back playing at home. I can only get better... I'm still building. Daria Saville

The top seed at the WTA 250 event in Hobart is Elise Mertens, the World No 29 from Belgium, who breezed past former AO finalist Danielle Collins, 6-2 6-3, in 74 minutes on Monday.

Collins made a stunning run to the final at Melbourne Park in 2022 and has been ranked as high as No 7 in the world.

Mertens, though, won Hobart in 2017 and 2018, and proved way too consistent against the now 54th-ranked American, despite finding herself down an early break in the second set before picking up 4 games on the trot against a visibly frustrated Collins.

The Belgian next faces Slovakia’s Anna-Karolina Schmiedlova, who toppled fellow qualifier Maria Camila Osorio Serrano, 1-6 7-6(4) 7-5 to earn her 1st-round win.

In an all-qualifier contest, Schmiedlova pull off a come-back from 5-1 and match point down in the 3rd set against the Colombian, who also led 3-1 in the second, but the Slovak, who was a finalist here in 2019, wrapped up win in 2 hours and 32 minutes.

Wild-card Daria Saville upset World No 46 Anna Blinkova in her opening round in Hobart

© Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Australia’s Daria Saville claimed her biggest win in almost 18 months on Day 1, toppling World No 46 Russian Anna Blinkova in the opening round, 3-6 6-4 6-4,

It is a big boost for the 29-year-old ahead of the Australian Open, for which Saville has controversially been granted the final discretionary wild-card ahead of the country’s highest-ranked woman, Arina Rodionova, who has landed in the qualifying competition in Melbourne.

Saville, who returned to the tour in June after suffering a serious knee injury, came from behind to topple Blinkova on Monday night.

The Russian is the highest-ranked player Saville has beaten since she ousted then-world No 7 Jessica Pegula at Washington DC’s Citi Open in August 2022.

It is just the second time she has beaten a top 50 player since returning from injury.

“It’s my first top 50 win in a while,” Saville said afterwards. “I have come close, so really nice after all of my injuries and so nice to be back playing at home. I can only get better… I’m still building.”

Saville, currently ranked 195, said she had reached out to Rodionova, ranked 105, who must battle through qualifying to make the Australian Open main draw.

“I sent her a message, I said ‘I’m so sorry’,” Saville said. “I made a joke [saying] ‘I’m so sorry but I’m not giving up my wildcard’. She sent a nice message back saying it is what it is, and I want you to do well. It wasn’t up to us and I think it was a really tough decision.”

Saville, a wild-card entrant in Hobart, held a match point serving for the 3rd set but double-faulted, before Blinkova returned the favour with 2 double-faults in a row to concede the match.

A former World No 20, Saville is competing in Hobart for the first time since 2013, when the then-teenage competitor lost in qualifying, and she attended the tournament last year as a spectator while recovering from knee surgery.

Saville next will face Kenin, also a wild-card and seeded 6th, who tidily dispatched Belgium’s Greet Minnen, 6-3 6-3, on Tuesday.

Earlier on Monday, Aussies Kimberly Birrell & Olivia Gadecki advanced to the doubles quarter-finals, the wild-carded pair edging out a hard-fought 6-7(2) 6-1 [10-8] win over Georgia’s Oksana Kalashnikova & Maia Lumsden from Great Britain.

3rd-seeded Zhu Lin saved 2 set points against Lucia Bronzetti and prevailed in straight sets

© Chris Hyde/Getty Images

The No 3 seed from China, Zhu Lin, saved 2 set points when Lucia Bronzetti served at 5-4 in the first set of their 1st-round match, but ultimately defeating the Italian, 7-5 6-1.

Zhu takes on American Caroline Dolehide next, a 6-1 6-4 winner over Egypt’s Mayar Sherif.

In another 1st-round result at Hobart’s Domain Tennis Centre, French No 8 seed Varvara Gracheva beat America’s Peyton Stearns, 7-6(3) 3-6 7-5, and will meet Arantxa Rus from the Netherlands, who fought her way past young Czech lucky loserLinda Fruhvirtova, 6-3 5-7 6-3.

On Tuesday, another qualifier, Yulia Putintseva from Kazakhstan, pulled off a remarkable come-back to defeat 2023 finalist Elisabetta Cocciaretto from Italy in the 1st-round after trailing 6-0, 4-0 and then 5-3 in the third set, and saving a match point on her opponent’s serve at 5-2 in the second set.

Putintseva advances to meet Marie Bouzkova, the 5th seed from Czech Republic, who saw off Swiss qualifier Viktorija Golubic, 6-2 6-4.

Chinese qualifier Yuan Yue edged out American Sloane Stephens, 6-4 3-6 7-6(5) to reach the 2nd-round of on Tuesday night in a clash lasted almost 3 hours.

Yuan also won a 3-set match over young Russian Diana Shnaider in qualifying to make it into the main draw in Hobart.

Ranked 73, Yuan plays her compatriot in round 2, after Wang Xinyu, the 4th seed, outlasted Australian wild-card Olivia Gadecki, 6-3 3-6 6-3.

Tatjana Maria, the No 9 seed, reached the 2nd-round when Argentine lucky loser Nadia Podoroska retired with the German leading 6-1, 4-3.

36-year old Maria, who is ranked 42, next plays Bulgarian lucky loser Viktoriya Tomova, who upset Italy’s Martina Trevisan, 6-3 6-3.

Polish qualifier Magdalena Frech also made it into round 2 in Hobart by edging out Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo 0-6 6-1 6-4.

Frech, ranked No 72 in the world, won after 2 hours and 46 minutes on court and will face the winner of the match between Emma Navarro, the American 2nd seed, who came from 2-0 down in the third set to defeat Clara Burel, improving her record against the Frenchwoman to 2-1, in the last match of Day 2.



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