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Kleybanova Wins Epic In Moscow

Alisa Kleybanova needed over three hours to see off Varvara Lepchenko in the first round of the Kremlin Cup on Monday.

Published October 14, 2013 12:04

Kleybanova Wins Epic In Moscow
Alisa Kleybanova

MOSCOW, Russia - Alisa Kleybanova marked her first appearance at the Kremlin Cup for three years with an epic three set victory over Varvara Lepchenko on Monday.

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Having reached the quarter and semifinals on her past two appearances in Moscow, Kleybanova's battle with Hodgkin's lymphoma forced her to watch on from the sidelines in 2011 and 2012.

"I was very excited to be back here because it's been a long time that I've been waiting to play this tournament," Kleybanova said. "I'm really happy with how I dealt with all the stress - I actually felt really good out there and that's one of the reasons I was able to hold myself together in such a tough match and actually play some good tennis."

Kleybanova started brightly, but, despite holding three set points at 6-5 in the opening set, eventually dropped it on a tie-break.

She responded to this setback in fine fashion, feeding off the partisan crowd to level the match before breaking in the final game of the decider to close out a 67(6) 64 64 win.

"It was a really tough match right from the first point and I actually didn't even know we played so long," Kleybanova said of their three-hour, 11-minute encounter. "Here you don't have any windows or sunshine so you completely lose sense of time and I was just so into the game that I wasn't even thinking about how much time it was taking.

"It's great, the crowd was amazing today. We were also playing some good tennis and when you play well the crowd finds it hard not to support you. I'm very happy that so many people were here cheering for me so much today."

Elsewhere there were wins for Kleybanova's fellow Russians, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

Like Kleybanova, Kuznetsova was making her return to Moscow, having missed last year's tournament with a knee injury, and after a slow start settled down to defeat Lesia Tsurenko, 75 62. Pavlyuchenkova, meanwhile, was untroubled, during a quick-fire 60 63 win over Caroline Garcia.

"I was very nervous in the start of the match because I haven't played in Moscow in a while," Kuznetsova said. "I so wanted to do well that I was very tense and that's why I couldn't just play my normal game as I needed time to loosen up."

Also advancing was Alizé Cornet, who strengthened her chances of reaching the Tournament Of Champions in Sofia with a 75 63 victory against Elina Svitolina.

"She's a very young player and very talented so I knew I had a tough match in front of me," Cornet said. "I was very solid, especially in the important moments, and that's why I won.

"Last year I was a little frustrated as I was second alternate for Sofia, so I went there but I didn't play and I really wanted to play this year. So now, since Strasbourg, all I've been thinking about is this goal and I'm 26 in the world so I really hope I can make it this time and if I have a good tournament in Moscow it's going to help."

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