French Open champ Ostapenko falls to US qual­i­fier Lepchenko

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

TORONTO: Qual­i­fier Var­vara Lepchenko shocked the reign­ing Roland-Gar­ros cham­pion while 37-year-old Venus Wil­liams got off to an­other shaky start in the open­ing round at the WTA hard­court tour­na­ment in Toronto on Mon­day.

Lepchenko ral­lied to stun French Open win­ner Je­lena Ostapenko 1-6, 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (7/5). Ninth seeded Wil­liams also needed three sets and close to two hours to elim­i­nate qual­i­fier Irina-Camelia Begu 6-1, 3-6, 6-3. Amer­i­can vet­eran Lepchenko, 31-years old and ranked 68th in the world, trailed 61, 3-0 be­fore turn­ing things around against the 12th-ranked Lat­vian, who had fol­lowed up her French Open tri­umph by reach­ing the quar­ter-fi­nals at Wim­ble­don.

“I think I woke up, I was a lit­tle bit in the sleep­ing mode for a set and a half,” said Lepchenko, a for­mer top-20 player her­self. “All the credit to her, she played amaz­ing ten­nis - she hardly missed any ball from the very be­gin­ning.

“Once I gave her a lit­tle push back, that’s when the game started. I pretty much fo­cused on my game. “I know I have pow­er­ful shots and I’m as good a player as her, so I knew I just had to give my best, and it would be a bat­tle.” Lepchenko notched her first win this sea­son over a top-20 player and her first since she beat then 15thranked Timea Bac­sin­szky at the US Open last year. The match was one of the Cen­tre Court high­lights on the open­ing day of this key US Open tuneup. Seven-time Grand Slam cham­pion Wil­liams, who is the old­est player in the draw, faced a stern test from Ro­ma­nian Begu, who is ranked 59th in the world. Head­ing into Mon­day’s match, Wil­liams had lost five out of seven open­inground matches in the event, which switches back-and-forth be­tween Toronto and Mon­treal each year.

This marked the first ca­reer meeting be­tween the two. Begu had al­ready won a tour­na­ment in 2017 at Bucharest, while Wil­liams, who fin­ished run­ner-up in this event in 2014, is look­ing for her first ti­tle of the sea­son.

Wil­liams won the one hour, 56 minute match de­spite hit­ting no aces and mak­ing 10 dou­ble faults com­pared to her op­po­nent’s four aces and six dou­ble faults. But Wil­liams won 68 per­cent of her first-serve points and was able to break Begu’s serve five times.

Wil­liams ad­vances to the sec­ond round where she will face world num­ber 40 Ka­te­rina Sini­akova, who de­feated qual­i­fier Mar­i­ane Duque-Marino 4-6, 6-0, 6-4. Else­where, two-time Wim­ble­don win­ner Pe­tra Kvi­tova, seeded 14th fended off Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1, 7-6 (7/5). Kvi­tova breezed through the open­ing set, but had to bat­tle back from 1-4 down in the sec­ond to finish off the Spa­niard in straight sets.

PLISKOVA GETS BYE

Top seed Karolina Pliskova and sec­ond­seeded Si­mona Halep-who won the Canadian crown last year when the WTA played in Mon­treal-were among the top eight play­ers en­joy­ing first-round byes.

In other early ac­tion, Czech Barbora Strycova up­set 13th-seeded Kristina Mlade­n­ovic of France 6-2, 6-3. Strycova, ranked 26th in the world, raced to a 5-0 lead in the first set as Mlade­n­ovic strug­gled to find her rhythm. Although Strycova was bro­ken the first time she served for the set, she fi­nally served it out with a love game and quickly took a 4-0 lead in the sec­ond frame. She again turned back a late chal­lenge from Mlade­n­ovic, who cut the deficit to 4-3 but was un­able to con­vert three break points that would have seen her level the set. It was an­other dis­ap­point­ing Canadian out­ing for Mlade­n­ovic, who has never won a match in Mon­treal or Toronto. Else­where, Bri­tish qual­i­fier Heather Wat­son bowed out early, re­tir­ing while trail­ing Ja­pan’s Naomi Osaka 6-1, 4-1 with a shoul­der in­jury.

Bel­gium’s Kirsten Flip­kens was up 6-2 when Croa­t­ian op­po­nent Ana Kon­juh re­tired, the vic­tory send­ing Flip­kens into a sec­ond-round clash with fourth-seeded Wim­ble­don cham­pion Gar­bine Mugu­ruza of Spain. — AFP

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