The J & T Bank Ostrava Open, a WTA 500 event, kicked off on Monday in the Czech Republic when Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit beat Sorana Cirstea from Romania, 6-4 6-4, to set up a second round meeting with Spain’s Paula Badosa, the 9th seed, who was a 6-2 6-2 winner over Russian lucky loser Varvara Gracheva.
This is the second edition of the hard-court indoor tournament that was added to the WTA Tour last year after the tournaments in China were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Also through to round two is another Spaniard, Sara Sorribes Tormo, after dispatching Anastasia Zakharova, a qualifier from Russia, 6-3 6-3, and she will now face 3rd-seeded Belinda Bencic from Switzerland, who received a first round bye.
A third Russian, Anastasia Potapova, upset wild card Caroline Garcia from France, 6-2 7-6(6), to face the No 2 seed, Czech Petra Kvitova, who also received a bye, while Magda Linette of Poland hit 13 aces on her way to a 6-2 7-6 (3) victory over Oceane Dodin of France.
Top seed Iga Swiatek from Poland awaits the winner of the Tuesday match between Shuai Zhang from China and Kazakstan’s Yulia Putintseva.
World No 3 Karolina Pliskova, however, is not playing Ostrava after she pulled out due to a wrist injury on Friday.
The 29-year-old Czech, a former World No 1, reached the final at Wimbledon before a run to the quarter-finals of the US Open.
In a battle between Top 40 players, it took Kontaveit an hour and a half to get past Cirstea, improving to 5-0 in their head-to-head matches.
An array of backhands helped Kontaveit break Cirstea for a 4-3 lead in the first set, but the Romanian struck back right away, coming out on top in a rally with a forehand winner to convert her 3rd break point of the next game to level at 4-4.
Kontaveit took charge once more, using aggressive play to break Cirstea to love and grab a 5-4 lead, and then served out the set, her 14 winners out-pacing the Romania’s 9 in the opener.
Easing to a 5-2 lead in the second, Kontaveit nearly saw her advantage vanish as Cirstea clawed a break back and held 0-40 on the Estonian’s serve at 5-4, but she won a run of consecutive points to bring the 10th game to deuce, and claimed the win with two sizzling forehand winners.
The Estonian, who converted 6 of her 8 eight break points, takes on Badosa next after the Spaniard ousted Gracheva in just an hour 13 minutes, exacting a measure of revenge for her loss to the Russian in the second round of the US Open.
In fact, Gracheva knocked Badosa out of Flushing Meadows in each of the last two years but, on the indoor hard-courts of Ostrava, the World No 27 had little trouble with the Russian, winning 77 percent of her first-service points, and never facing a break point in the encounter.
Potapova, ranked 92, fended off all 3 of the break points she faced against Garcia in their 1 hour 46 minute encounter, levelling their head-to-head record to 1-1 with the win, and setting up a second round match with Kvitova, two-time Wimbledon champion.
The Russian, who is playing just her second WTA main draw since June, had 7 fewer unforced errors than Garcia, while also striking 30 winners to the Frenchwoman’s 26.
Sorribes Tormo, meanwhile, made relatively short work of Zakharova, another Russian qualifier, winning in an hour and 37 minutes.
The World No 36 was an Ostrava quarter-finalist last year, and now takes on Olympic champion Bencic in the second round, in their first meeting.
19-year-old Zakharova is currently ranked at a career-high World No 222, but is still seeking the first Tour-level main-draw win of her career, having made her WTA main-draw debut in Gdynia earlier this year, and losing in the first round of that event and in Luxembourg last week.