Top Seeds Win Season Openers in Brisbane
Published January 04, 2009 12:00
BRISBANE, Australia - The seeds went 2-1 on the first day's play at the inaugural Brisbane International, with Victoria Azarenka and Marion Bartoli conceding just five games between them, but Kaia Kanepi falling at the first hurdle. There was also mixed news for Australian fans: Slovak-born, Melbourne-based Jarmila Gajdosova advanced, but 16-year-old Brisbane schoolgirl Monika Wejnert succumbed to Bartoli.
Another local, Samantha Stosur was to have played the first match on the Rafter Arena at the new Queensland Tennis Centre, but those plans were scuppered when her opponent, seventh seed Maria Kirilenko, pulled out due to a viral illness. As the tournament was yet to officially start the Russian's spot in the draw was taken by Japanese veteran Ai Sugiyama, who became the No.9 seed. Stosur and Sugiyama, who won the Gold Coast title in 1998 and 2004, now take to the court first up on Monday.
The change of schedule meant the distinction of recording the first main draw win of the 2009 season fell to 98th-ranked Gajdosova, who upset China's Peng Shuai, the world No.40, 64 62. "I was pretty happy with what I have achieved today," said the 21-year-old, who has lived in Australia since she was 16 and is on track to become a citizen soon. "The game was a great experience for me after having not played many matches since October. I am hoping that my performances will continue to improve throughout the tournament."
Gajdosova's next opponent will be No.2 seed Azarenka, after the Belarusian 19-year-old stormed past Kateryna Bondarenko in a fraction less than 50 minutes, 60 62. When Ukrainian Bondarenko finally made the scoreboard early in the second set, 15th-ranked Azarenka applied her explosive groundstrokes to break for 3-2 and didn't look back.
Bartoli, currently sitting at No.17, was only slightly more troubled by Wejnert. Nontheless the world No.528, who earned her wildcard into Brisbane after finishing runner-up at the Australian Open wildcard playoffs in Melbourne last month, put on a creditable display against a vastly more experienced opponent in front of her family and friends.
"It was not an easy match, she was playing really well and she obviously had nothing to lose," observed Bartoli after clinching victory 61 62 on her third match point. "It was her first match on the WTA tour and playing against me was not easy for her, and this being her home town, it was normal that she was nervous.
"She's really talented so I had to play a good match, a solid match, but I did and it was pretty good to start like that," Bartoli added.