WASHINGTON D.C., USA - Svetlana Kuznetsova claimed her first hardcourt victory in almost a year at the Citi Open, and she did so in emphatic style dropping just three games against Kristie Ahn, 6-2, 6-1.
Kuznetsova, who lifted the title here in Washington DC back in 2014, was sidelined by an off-season wrist surgery that caused her to miss the Australian swing. She made her comeback to action in Indian Wells but struggled to regain her form, coming into Washington DC having won just four matches in 10 tournaments and dropping out of the WTA Top 100 for the first time since 2002.
The Russian showed positive signs against Ahn in her first-round match, firing six aces and winning 87% of points behind her first serve. In fact, Kuznetsova didn’t face a single break point during the match, and dropped just a total of seven points in her service games - five in the first set and two in the second.
“I’ve never played Kristie before, she’s an up and coming player, and it took me time to adjust to her game,” Kuznetsova said afterwards. “But I was quite confident out there. I’m very happy with my performance.
“I feel good physically - I think I wasn’t ready and I came back too early [after wrist surgery] before, but now I took more time to prepare myself. I trained in Miami for two weeks and I feel much better, faster and lighter on the court, which I hope will help my game.”
A marathon opening game set the tone of the match for Kuznetsova - the Russian weathered a nearly-10-minute battle to grind out a break of serve after three chances. Kuznetsova kept Ahn under lots of pressure, securing a second break a few games later to open up a 4-0 lead.
Ahn did well to find her rhythm and get her name on the scoreboard, but wasn’t able to challenge the Russian’s serve or put her under any pressure. Kuznetsova calmly served out the set at 6-2, and carried her momentum into the second where she once again created a 4-0, double break lead.
Kuznetsova needed four match points to close out the match as Ahn tried to put together another late comeback - dodging five break chances to finally hold at 4-1. But she got it done a few games later, breaking a third time to close out the match after an hour and 20 minutes.
Up next, Kuznetsova will take on the winner between No.4 seed Ekaterina Makarova - the defending champion and a fellow Russian player - and Ana Bogdan in the second round.
“Well, Ekaterina I know very well and we have played each other many times,” Kuznetsova said. “She’s very nice, and we’re kind of friends. So I’m looking forward to playing her [if she wins].”