Britain’s Heather Watson got herself through to the second round of the Tianjin Open in China with a 6-4 7-6(3) win over Kateryna Bondarenko of the Ukraine on Monday.
Bondarenko is making her return to the tour after the birth of her second child, while Watson is one of two Brits in the Tianjin main draw,
Watson has been searching for some consistent form and dropped down a couple of times to lower tier events to put together some wins and regain her confidence.
In the lead-up to the US Open, she won the Vancouver ITF event, and has been in qualifying in Wuhan and Beijing.
Although the experienced Bondarenko has had the measure of Watson twice before, Watson won the last time they met in Nurnberg last year.
The woman from Guernsey came into this encounter with greater sharpness than the Ukrainian, who made her return in Tashkent and has yet to find her stride again.
Bondarenko has been ranked as high as No 29 in the world but lost in Tashkent with just 4 games on the board, encouraging Watson to impose herself early on in their encounter.
Watson’s serve was the more consistent and she won 68% of the points on her first deliveries, while notching up 4 double faults compared to the Ukrainian’s extravagant 10.
The margins were tight all round and it was Watson, who is currently ranked 125 in the world, that held the edge in most categories and came through in an hour and 45 minutes.
The British No 2 will now play 2nd seed Wang Qiang from China, who defeated qualifier Arina Rodionova from Australia, 6-3 6-4
On Tuesday, Harriet Dart lost to Kurumi Nara from Japan, 3-6 6-1 6-3, in a match of fluctuating fortunes.
Although Dart, ranked 133, got a fair bit of court time in Tashkent, she has yet to advance past the first round of a tour-level event since reaching the third round of Wimbledon.
She too has dropped down to the ITF level for a couple of tournaments since Wimbledon, and is searching for back to back main draw wins.
Nara has slipped down the rankings and is currently No 159 in the world.
She came into the Tianjin main draw with 3 solid matches under her belt via the qualifying, breezing through all of them in straight sets, but has yet to pick up two straight wins at Tour level.
The Japanese struck the ball well and used her great movement to good effect, and her normally weak serve fired at 65% on her first deliveries, of which she won 58% of the points.
While Dart saved 58% of the break points she faced and took the opening set, her service percentages were way down in the match overall and that, in the end, proved to be the pivotal difference.
Despite the rankings, Nara has the more experience, and came from behind to win the match in just under 2 hours 15 minutes.
Watson & Dart will play in the doubles together on Wednesday.