In the second match of Day 3 at the Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai, Karolina Muchova found a way to get past Alison Riske, 2-6 6-2 7-5, on her debut playing in the Camellia Group.
I feel very good, and it was physically very tough… and we just tried to make everything like that, I will feel good or best as possible tomorrow for another match Karolina Muchova
While Riske, the 7th seed, had beaten the 23-year old Czech in the first round of ‘s-Hertogenbosch this year en route to claiming her second career title, it had taken the American three sets to do so.
That match was one of 16 three-set wins the American has scored – to only four losses – since the start of this year’s grass season.
Muchova, seeded 11 for the title here, was the last woman to qualify for and arrive in Zhuhai after reaching the semi-finals at last week’s VTB Kremlin Cup in Moscow.
Unsurprisingly, she looked tired at the outset but recovered from a slow start in her round-robin opener, and came from a break down twice to eliminate the American from the competition in a shade under 2 hours.
“The last few days, I was mostly traveling here,” Muchova said after the match. “So, I came late, I didn’t come very prepared as I would wish I am, but it’s how it is and I just try to make the best of it.”
Broken in the first game of the final set, Muchova also came from 3-1 down in the decider to keep her hopes of qualifying for the semi-finals alive.
Both Muchova and Riske reached the quarters at Wimbledon earlier this year and here they split a pair of identical sets, with the American taking the opener by virtue of winning 5 straight games.
Undaunted after failing to convert 2 break points in the 3rd game of the first set, Riske held to love and broke at her first opportunity, never trailing again in the set.
Muchova, however, flipped the second set around in commanding fashion, sprinting out to a 5-0 lead with the loss of just 3 points over the course of the first 4 games.
That set the stage for a winner-take-all deciding set, in which Riske took the lead early, and held from 0-40 down in the 4th game to solidify her 3-1 lead.
The Czech managed to move into the lead with a strong run of her own, winning 12 of the next 13 points over the course of three straight games to take her first lead of the set.
Later she had to save a pivotal break point at 4-4 that left Riske frustrated enough to hurl her racket.
To seal the win in an hour and 58 minutes, Muchova denied the American 2 chances to send the match into a decisive tiebreak, and earned her victory on her first match point.
“I fight the ball, just fight the ball,” the rather bemused Czech said on court after her win.
“I won today a very, very tough match. I was struggling from the start, but happy with the win.”
The World No 36 will next face No 2 seed Sofia Kenin from the USA in the deciding match of the group, with the winner of their match advancing to the knockout rounds.
“I feel very good, and it was physically very tough… and we just tried to make everything like that, I will feel good or best as possible tomorrow for another match,” said Muchova.
“She is a good player, so I will have to play very good and consistent tomorrow,” she added. “I don’t think I should change any specific thing, I’ll just play my game.”
Meanwhile, her opponent, Kenin, has been playing in both the singles and doubles competitions in Zhuhai but has narrowly lost her 2 outings with Georgian partner Oksana Kashelnikova in the Bougainvillea Group, to Xinyu Jiang & Qianhui Tang from China, 6-2 4-6 [10-7] and Ukraine’s Lyudmyla Kichenok & Andreja Klepac from Slovenia, 2-6 6-4 [11-9], effectively eliminating her from the doubles event.