Stuttgart | Jabeur prevails as Andreescu makes winning return

Tunisian Ons Jabeur, the only seed in action on Tuesday, came from a set down to beat Czech Marketa Vondrousova to reach round two of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, while Canada’s Bianca Andreescu navigated a safe return to competition with a straight sets win over German wild-card Jule Niemeier, and Daria Kasatkina shattered American Coco Gauff’s hopes of advancement.

I'm being really honest here, but I actually wanted to quit the sport. It was really bad. I am privileged, in a way, for having this opportunity and doing all of this. Now I'm very grateful, more than ever. Bianca Andreescu

Other winners on Day 2 of the indoor clay WTA 500 tournament included Elena Rybakina from Kazakstan, who got past German qualifier Nastasja Schunk in 2 tight sets, lucky loser Tamara Kropatsch, a late replacement from Germany for Italy’s injured Jasmine Paolini who upset another Italian Camilla Giorgi in a 3-set marathon, and Eva Lys, another German qualifier ranked 342 who got past Viktorija Golubic, also in 3 sets.

Jabeur, the 7th seed, dropped her serve just once in the opening set before steaming past Olympic silver medallist and 2019 French Open runner-up Vondrousova, 4-6 6-2 6-3, although she faced and saved 2 break points across the next two, while the Czech saved a couple of break points in the first set, but then went on to drop her serve 3 times.

“I thought I was going for the shots, but when you play someone who is picking up all the balls, they kind of get in your head,” Jabeur said after the match. “Second set was much better, I was trying to be more aggressive and taking more of my chances.

“I have to say, playing a lot of matches lately, gave me a lot of confidence, going from Charleston to here.”

Both Jabeur and Vondrousova are famed for their touch and penchant for the drop-shot, and came into the tournament with strong form, the Tunisian having reached her 5th career final in Charleston 2 weeks ago, while the Czech went unbeaten as the lynchpin of her country’s 3-2 win over Great Britain in last weekend’s Billie Jean King Cup Qualifiers.

Jabeur started slowly, committing unforced errors on 3 game points and ultimately ceding her serve after a 3-deuce tussle when Vondrousova found a backhand pass to break.

It proved to be the sole break of the first set and although a double-fault as Vondrousova served the set out briefly provided a lifeline for Jabeur, the World No 32 saved the break point and closed the opening act out with a drop-shot.

Jabeur rebounded by playing with more control, reducing her unforced error count from 13 in the first set to 9 in the second and 6 in the third, as Vondrousova’s 5 winners and 5 unforced errors in the opener morphed into 11 miscues in set 2.

From 2-2 in the second, Jabeur reeled off 7 games in a row, and although Vondrousova’s level rose again at the end of the decider, the World No 10 never looked like losing her momentum as she closed it out on her 2nd match point with a service winner down the tee.

Jabeur plays Kasatkina next, who defeated Gauff in her opener, 6-4 6-2, in an hour and 19 minutes.

The 18-year-old American seemed in control when she went up 4-0 in the opening set, but Kasatkina recovered to win the next 6 games and then dropped only 2 more as she wrapped up the win.

Bianca Andreescu won her first match back on tour since October against Jule Niemeier on Tuesday

Facebook/Porsche Tennis

Meanwhile, Andreescu fought her way past Niemeier to win her first match of her 2022 season, beating the German, 7-6(5) 6-3, after an hour and 44 minutes in her return to action after a long layoff.

In December Andreescu announced she was stepping away from tour to recover physically and mentally from a challenging two years, posting on Twitter that she was affected by ‘multiple weeks in isolation quarantining’ after contracting COVID-19, and by her grandmother’s hospitalisation in intensive care because of the virus.

She last played at Indian Wells in October where she lost in the 2nd-round loss to Anett Kontaveit.

“A lot of days, I did not feel like myself, especially while I was training and/or playing matches,” she said. “I felt like I was carrying the world on my shoulders.

“I could not detach myself from everything that was going on off the court, was feeling the collective sadness and turmoil around, and it took its toll on me.”

Andreescu was 19 when she capped a break-through season by upsetting Serena Williams in the 2019 US Open final weeks after she won the Rogers Cup final in Toronto, when the American retired early in the final, all of which catapulted the Canadian to a career-best No 4 in the WTA rankings.

Now 21-years old, Andreescu told a press conference on Monday that the relentless storm of setbacks she faced nearly pushed her away from the game.

“I’m being really honest here, but I actually wanted to quit the sport,” Andreescu said. “It was really bad.

“I am privileged, in a way, for having this opportunity and doing all of this.

“Now I’m very grateful, more than ever. So I don’t want people to think, ‘Oh you’re a little baby, just suck it up.’ But it was an accumulation of two-and-a-half years. A lot had happened and I just didn’t want to deal with anything anymore.

“So I realised that I really do love the sport, and I do want to continue, but not just to win Grand Slams, or to do this and that.

“I want to do something bigger in the sport, and I want to help contribute to a better world as well. I realise that tennis is my way toward that.”

The Canadian struck 22 winners and fired 6 aces against Niemeier, and managed to save 5 of 6 break points in the win.

The World No 121 got off to a quick start, earning a chance to break in the 2nd game of the match, but the German saved it and held serve before going up 5-3.

Niemeier had a set point on the Canadian’s serve, but Andreescu fought back and eventually forced the match into the tight tiebreak where, at 6-5, she got the crucial break to take the first set.

She then went up a break early in the second en route to the victory and the chance to face off against 3rd seed Aryna Sabalenka in round 2.

Emma Raducanu makes her Porsche Tennis Grand Prix debut on Wednesday when she faces Storm Sanders

Instagram/Porsche Tennis

Elsewhere, two other Germans made better progress, with Lys taking out the Swiss Golubic, 5-7 7-5 7-5, and Korpatsch beating Giorgi in another marathon, 3-6 7-6(2) 6-1, after 3 hours and 10 minutes.

Rybakina needed 2 hours 2 minutes to claim her 7-6(3) 7-5 against the German qualifier Schunk, and now will play No 2 seed Paula Badosa from Spain for a place in the quarter-finals.

On Monday, Liudmila Samsonova and Ekaterina Alexandrova reached the second round beating French qualifier Chloe Paquet, 6-0 6-0, and China’s Shuai Zhang, 7-6(5) 7-6(6), respectively.

Wednesday features some big-time tennis as Petra Kvitova is scheduled to face Karolina Pliskova, the 6th seed, in an all-Czech encounter, while Iga Swiatek, the new World No 1 from Poland, takes on Lys.

Britain’s Emma Raducanu, seeded 8th, faces the Aussie Storm Sanders and, in one of the feature matches of the day, Estonia’s Kontaveit will face the local favourite Angelique Kerber while, in the last match of the day, another German, Laura Sigemund, takes on Tamara Zidansek from Slovenia.



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