The Internazionali BNL d’Italia got under way at the Foro Italico in Rome on Monday, with some of the seeds in action and coming through unscathed, although Petra Kvitova had to come from a set down against Magda Linette to advance, while Jennifer Brady won in straight sets over Zhang Shuai and Iga Swiatek faced an early deficit before profiting from an injury-enforced retirement by Alison Riske.
The first set I started very badly. I was missing almost everything. On the court... [the ball] was bouncing everywhere as well. A little bit windy. I just had to used to probably everything. The beginning of the second set, when finally I held my serve and broke her serve, I think, since then, it was much, much better. Petra Kvitova
There was plenty of drama too on Day 1, with several marathons and a potential altercation peppering the schedule.
Kvitova, seeded 11, found her way through with a 1-6 6-0 6-2 victory in 95 minutes against Linette, the Polish No 2.
“The first set I started very badly. I was missing almost everything,” the left-handed Czech said. “On the court… [the ball] was bouncing everywhere as well. A little bit windy. I just had to used to probably everything.
“The beginning of the second set, when finally I held my serve and broke her serve, I think, since then, it was much, much better.”
A set down after making 16 unforced errors in the first 7 games, Kvitova quickly righted her ship and won 9 straight games to take control of the match, and was never in much danger for the duration.
Linette’s only chance on Kvitova’s serve came and went early in the decider when she held 3 break points after having been broken herself for a 4th straight time, but Kvitova held firm to build a 3-0 lead and hardly looked back.
Kvitova will next face former World No 2 and two-time major finalist Vera Zvonareva from Russia, who beat American Christina McHale in a clash of qualifiers, 6-3 6-0.
These two have not played in 10 years, meeting 6 times in a 3-3 head-to-head from 2009-11.
“Against Vera, it’s long time really when we played each other,” Kvitova said. “She’s coming back.
“She’s through the qualies as well, so definitely she can play. That’s 100%. So we will see. It will be nice match-up if I’m going to play her after so many years.”
The Polish No 1, Swiatek, is seeded 15 here and she found herself facing Riske for the second time in a fortnight, having beaten her in the first round of the Mutua Madrid Open with the loss of just 2 games.
The American, who was playing just her 4th event of the season after struggling with a left foot injury, started their re-match much brighter.
Swiatek racked up 18 unforced errors over the first 9 games of the match, but found more consistency as the opening set wore on, winning 4 straight games and holding a set point on Riske’s serve in the 10th game
It was at that moment that the American injured herself, jarring her foot and pulling up during a lengthy, 10-shot rally that finished when Swiatek’s drop-shot attempt landed wide.
Riske retired from the match after receiving medical attention at deuce, putting Swiatek through to the second round where she will face the winner of an all-American encounter between Madison Keys and lucky loser Sloane Stephens, who has replaced Karolina Muchova from the Czech Republic in the draw.
Another American, 13th-seeded Brady, got past China’s Zhang, 6-1 6-4, in an hour and 16 minutes and takes on Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova next, who took out Ukrainian qualifier Marta Kostyuk, 6-3 6-1.
Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo played, and won, the longest match of the year, defeating Italian Camila Giorgi 7-6(4) 6-7(7) 7-5 after 3 hours and 51 minutes of play.
Giorgi went up a 4-0 lead with 2 breaks in the decisive set, but the Spaniard pulled both back to 3-4.
The Italian broke serve for the 3rd time in the 8th game, but Sorribes Tormo won 4 consecutive games including 2 breaks to claim the win.
The match, however, was marred by the chair umpire having to call security to protect herself from Sergio Giorgi, Camila’s father,
The umpire was heard talking on her walkie-talkie, saying she felt uncomfortable about the presence of Mr Giorgi, and asking officials to provide some extra backup.
“Is it possible for you to stay around?” she was heard asking. “Because Giorgi’s father is very mad and I would like to have someone [nearby].”
The voice on the other end replied: “You got it.”
Tennis writer Jill Martin tweeted: “Camila Giorgi’s dad keeps inserting himself into the conversation with the chair umpire. This is uncomfortable to watch, honestly.”
Fellow journalist Ben Rothenberg was also critical of the disturbing scenes: “Nastiness and aggression toward officials is worryingly on the rise in tennis,” Rothenberg tweeted.
“There’ve been several threats made against umpires recently by ATP players (Zeppieri, Dzumhur), and now whatever is happening here with Sergio Giorgi to make this WTA umpire feel unsafe.
“Neither Zeppieri nor Dzumhur has been suspended for the threats they made toward officials on court, which fits the increasingly clear pattern of ATP not giving a s**t about player misconduct in nearly all circumstances.
In the second round, Sorribes Tormo will play 7th seed and Mutua Madrid Open champion Aryna Sabalenka.
In other marathons, American teenager Coco Gauff overcame Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva 7-5 4-6 6-4 in after 2 hours 57 minutes, while Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova defeated Switzerland’s Jil Teichmann 3-6 6-1 6-3 in just shy of 2 hours.
Gauff came back from a break down at 5-3 and broke twice in the 10th and 12th games to claim the first set.
Putintseva went up a break in the 5th game to take a 4-1 lead and while the American broke straight back, the Kazakh converted 3rd opportunity to open up a 5-2 lead.
Gauff saved 6 set points on her serve, but Putintseva held serve to love to win the second set, before the 17-year old won 12 of the first 15 points to break in the 2nd game of the decider to go up 3-0.
Putintseva broke back in the 5th game for 2-3, but Gauff broke again to open up a 5-2 lead and served out the win on her 2nd match point to set up a meeting with Sakkari, who edged qualifier Polona Hercog from Slovenia, 7-6(6) 3-6 6-2.
Sevastova came back from a set down against Teichmann, avenging her earlier defeat to the Swiss in Adelaide last February.
Croatia’s Petra Martic came through her 3-set tussle against American Shelby Rogers, 5-7 6-3 6-4, after 2 hours 29 minutes, while America’s Amanda Anisimova earned a 7-5 6-3 win over China’s Wang Qiang to improve her head-to-head record against her to 3-0.
“It was a really tough match,” Anisimova said. “I was expecting that going in because I’ve had a couple of tough matches with her.
“I was just trying to stay focused on my game and not rush too much, and it’s good to get my first win on red clay here.”
Elsewhere, Jessica Pegula from the US got past Russia’s Daria Kasatkina, 7-5 6-3, to become Naomi Osaka, the No 2 seed’s first opponent in round 2.