No.2 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova won her first match in four tournaments this season to begin her week at the TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Cup, ousting Wang Qiang in straight sets.
WTA Staff
April 23, 2018

ISTANBUL, Turkey - Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova won her first match since last summer's US Open at the TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Cup on Monday, as the No.2 seed defeated China's Wang Qiang, 6-3, 6-3.

The Russian returned from a wrist injury at the BNP Open in Indian Wells in March but lost her opening round match there, as well as at the Miami Open and the Ladies' Open Lugano.

Read more: Kuznetsova recovering from injury and planning for future

Making her debut in the Turkish capital's International event, the two-time Grand Slam champion rounded into form behind 21 winners to just 15 unforced errors, and served at 77 percent for the match.

She sprinted out of the gates and won the first three games of each set en route to securing victory in one hour and 40 minutes.

"You can practice as much as you want, but nothing gets you better prepared like playing matches," Kuznetsova said after the match.

"I've been practicing a lot, but still when I came to the tour, I was not quite ready. I played Indian Wells but I felt like I was out of shape. Phyiscally, I was good, because I had trained, but I needed more matches."

Despite getting off to a quick start in each set, the Russian needed to hold off a late charge from the Chinese No.3 en route to booking her spot in the second round.

Trailing 4-0 in the first set, Wang twice got one break back in the set's later stages but could not hold on to serve in response. 

The World No.64 was broken in four of her five service games of the set, as Kuznetsova proved more than effective on Wang's second serves.

Kuznetsova won 11 of the 14 points played when Wang missed her first delivery, and secured a one-set advantage on her third opportunity after building a 0-40 lead in the set's final game.

The second set proved more of the same, as Kuznetsova moved ahead by breaking Wang in her first service game in between a pair of holds, but the 26-year-old would not be beaten before attempting another comeback. 

Clean hitting from the baseline allowed Wang to win three straight games of her own, including a hold from 0-40 down in the sixth game to level the set at 3-3 -- the first time she pulled even in the match.

Nonetheless, Kuznetsova found the answers to Wang's resistence late in the match. She earned the pivotal break in Wang's next service game - a marathon, eight-deuce affair in which the Chinese No.3 saved the Russian's first three chances - and also served out the encounter despite facing two break points in the final game.

"The level of the tennis is extremely high, so you don't have these tournaments where you can go and win easily one or two matches [right away]," she added. "Every match is really hard, so I struggled a little bit, but I knew I just had to get going and my chance would appear."

Kuznetsova will next face the winner of a pair of qualifiers, as Viktoriya Tomova and Valentyna Ivakhnenko both booked their spots with wins in the final round of qualifying on Monday. 

Joining them in the main draw will be Danka Kovinic, Arantxa Rus, Dalila Jakupovic and Anna Kalinskaya. 

In the other main draw match to take the court on Monday, American Christina McHale defeated Mona Barthel, 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-3.