MONTERREY, México - One month ago in Melbourne, Nina Bratchikova caused a stir by knocking out Flavia Pennetta in the first round of the Australian Open. And at the Whirlpool Monterrey Open on Wednesday she was the thorn in the side of another Italian, defeating top seed Roberta Vinci.
For Bratchikova, these two wins bookend an excellent start to a season which has now seen her chalk up 14 wins, reach the third round of Australian Open and achieve a career-high ranking of No.92. Vinci, on the other hand, has made a slower start to 2012 and the difference in confidence was evident from the outset; Bratchikova broke serve in the third game, and, despite surrendering this advantage with a double fault when serving for the set, eventually took the opener.
In the second set, like the first, break points were at a premium. Yet it was Vinci who blinked first, dropping serve in the penultimate game and allowing Bratchikova to complete a 75 75 win.
"Every point was tough and every game was tough," Bratchikova said. "I knew her game well coming in, but you still can't plan how the match is going to go, so I'm very happy I won.
"I've been playing very well this year. My game has gotten better, I've had some big wins, and my ranking is rising. I hope I can start winning tournaments soon. It's only a coincidence my big wins this year have come against Italians!"
Vinci's second round loss leaves her doubles partner, World No.36 Sara Errani, as the highest-ranked player in the draw. And Errani had no problems overcoming both the high-altitude conditions and her opponent, Alizé Cornet, defeating the mercurial Frenchwoman, 62 63.
"I've been playing well the whole week so far and today I felt good too. We're at a higher altitude here and the ball flies sometimes. You just have to be patient with it and adapt to the conditions. It's also dangerous because it means your opponents can hit with more power sometimes. It can be tough to handle.
There were also doubles victories for No.2 seeds Kimiko Date-Krumm and Zhang Shuai, Janette Husarova and Katalin Marosi, and, notably, the wildcard pairing of Gisela Dulko and Paola Suárez. For Suárez, who recently came out of retirement, the 75 63 win over No.4 seeds Eva Birnerova and Alexandra Panova was the first of her come back.