CHARLESTON, SC, USA -- No.11 seed Daria Gavrilova of Australia survived a stern test in the first round of the Volvo Car Open on Monday, outlasting 131st-ranked Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, 1-6, 6-4, 6-3.
The World No.24, who won her first WTA singles title at the Connecticut Open last year, recovered from a disastrous opening set to obtain victory over the Tunisian in one hour and 49 minutes. Gavrilova knotted their head-to-head record at one win apiece, having lost their previous encounter in Baku in 2013.
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Jabeur had 35 winners to Gavrilova's 13, and won more points during the match by a ratio of 87 to 78, but it was Gavrilova who was sturdier on the bigger points in the final two sets, saving six of seven break points against her in the final two frames.
In the second round, Gavrilova will face the winner of the match between Italy's Camila Giorgi and Spanish qualifier Silvia Soler Espinosa, which will take place later in the afternoon on Monday.
The Tunisian completely dominated the opening set, belying her poor record during 2018, which has seen her win only one match in her first ten. Jabeur blasted through Gavrilova in the first set with her powerful forehand, occasionally peppering in backhand drop shots for winners to race to a 5-0 lead.
The Tunisian had one chance to notch an opening-set bagel, but squandered it with a forehand error, and Gavrilova eventually got on the board at 5-1. In the next game, Jabeur quickly held for the one-set lead, having won 28 of the 41 points. Jabeur had 12 winners to four unforced errors in the opener, while Gavrilova could only muster up a single winner in the first seven games.
The roles began to reverse in set two, and Gavrilova took an early 3-1 lead, after a backhand drop shot by Jabeur went awry while down break point. The Australian was starting to click on her groundstrokes, while Jabeur's strongly struck forehands missed their targets more frequently.
However, Jabeur clawed her way back on serve at 4-3 with a break of Gavrilova at love, culminating with a stunning backhand service return winner. A love hold brought the World No.131 all the way to 4-4, and suddenly, the Tunisian was two games away from the upset.
Gavrilova then had to fight through a protracted service game, fending off three break points. Had Jabeur taken any of those, she would have served for the match, but Gavrilova used her incredible footspeed to battle through a 24-point game and hold for 5-4.
The missed opportunities took their toll on Jabeur, and she hit a woebegone overhead into the net in the next game to queue up double set point for Gavrilova. A long backhand error on the following point put Gavrilova at one set all, and the 14 unforced errors by Jabeur in the tight second set were her undoing.
Gavrilova again claimed an early break for a 2-0 lead in the third set, and that would prove to be the only loss of service in the decider. The eleventh seed had found the range on her forehand by this point, and held through to 4-1.
Jabeur had one final chance to get back into the match, when miscues by Gavrilova while serving at 4-2 gave the Tunisian triple break point. But Gavrilova dug her heels in to triumph in some scintillating rallies, and won five points on the trot to hold for 5-2. Two games later, the match was complete and Gavrilova was on her way to the second round.