BAD GASTEIN, Austria - Located at the top of the beautiful Gastein valley in Austria, the NÜRNBERGER Gastein Ladies can lay claim to being the WTA's most picturesque tournament. However, on Monday afternoon, Mona Barthel wasted little time taking in the scenery, racing past Chiara Scholl and into the second round.
Following a flying start to the season in which she won the biggest title of her career, at the Open GDF SUEZ in Paris, Barthel's form has wavered lately, winning just three matches since the start of March.
Yet there was no lack of confidence against World No.232 Scholl, who was swatted aside, 60 60, in just 35 minutes. "I think one time I had another match that was also around 35 minutes too, but I lost a game in that!" Barthel said. "I still can't believe the score and it's the first time I've won 60 60 at a WTA tournament, so that was really good for me.
"It's sometimes difficult to play in the conditions here, as it's really high and the ball flies very fast through the air. It takes some getting used to and I'm pleased with how solid I was today - I was returning well, serving well and hit quite a few aces."
Barthel is not the only player in the draw that has found wins hard to come by of late. Arantxa Rus went into her first round meeting with No.7 seed María-Teresa Torró-Flor having lost her last 17 matches on tour, in a run stretching back to last August.
Rus' 17th defeat, against Olga Puchkova at Wimbledon, saw her claim a share of one of tennis' least sought-after records, tying Sandy Collins for the longest losing streak in WTA history. Against Torró-Flor, though, she stopped the rot, holding her nerve in a tense third set to prevail, 75 57 64.
"In the last month, I've been playing better tennis," Rus said. "But you need to play very well to win matches in this level.
"There were a few matches where I had chances to win. But I didn't change as a person and knew I could turn it round. Even so, it is a big relief to finally win today and in such a close match!"
Joining Rus in the second round will be Irina-Camelia Begu and Karin Knapp. Begu, the No.3 seed, defeated Carina Witthoeft, 63 63, while No.8 seed Knapp continued her recent revival with a 63 62 win over Valeria Solovyeva.