INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA - Almost out in the first round of qualifying, who would have thought she would make the main draw, let alone take out one of the most tenacious players out there? Lesia Tsurenko has done all of that.
The 22-year-old Tsurenko, who has been hovering just outside the Top 100 for more than a year, was nearly out in her first qualifying match on Monday, down 63 41 to Stéphanie Dubois, even facing a point to go down 63 51; but she battled back to win that one, beat Alla Kudryavtseva in straight sets in her next match and found herself in the BNP Paribas Open main draw.
Shahar Peer would present a whole new level. The No.40-ranked Peer, who has been as high as No.11 and is a two-time quarterfinalist here, came out strong, building a 64 20 lead; Tsurenko surged from there, winning 10 of the next 12 games to win the second set and lead 4-1 in the third. Peer rebounded with four games of her own and served for the match at 5-4, but Tsurenko won a pair of love games then broke the Israeli one last time to win, 46 63 75.
It was Tsurenko's third career win over a Top 40 player, having taken out Francesca Schiavone and Sara Errani in Fed Cup play earlier this year - and the Ukrainian's reward for the win is a second round match with the No.10-seeded Schiavone. The only time they played was the Fed Cup match.
"I was waiting to play like that for the last few years," Tsurenko said after that 61 62 win over Schiavone. "I always knew if I kept working hard I would beat good players. This win was the result of the work I've done the last few years. It was my first win over a top player and I expect to play more matches like this."
"It wasn't a good feeling, for sure, but she played really well," Schiavone said that day. "You want to play well and give points to your team, and when you don't, you feel sad, especially for the team. I'm very disappointed."
Other early winners on Day 2 were Ksenia Pervak, Chanelle Scheepers, Tamira Paszek, Simona Halep, Johanna Larsson, Sílvia Soler-Espinosa, Gisela Dulko and Irina Falconi. Falconi, an American wildcard and wtatennis.com's blogger from Indian Wells, lost the first set but was up 5-2 second set when Alexandra Dulgheru retired due to a right knee injury.
"That court is one of the largest in the world, it was really something," Falconi said. "Now I'm 1-0 on Arthur Ashe and 1-0 on Stadium 1 here, so I'm happy!
"It's a shame she had to retire. During the match I didn't want to think about it at all though. I wanted to maintain my composure and not really give anything away, and not think I'd have it easy. It's too bad she wasn't able to continue."
Falconi will take on No.6 seed Sam Stosur in the second round, a first-time meeting. "She's definitely a competitor - she has won a Grand Slam, so she's pretty good! But I'm going to go out there and try to win. There's no other way."