Mandy Minella, who broke the Top 100 last week, was a winner at the Whirlpool Monterrey Open.
WTA Staff

MONTERREY, México - It was a dramatic Day 2 at the Whirlpool Monterrey Open, with three seeds winning but three falling as the first round wrapped.

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No.7 seed Mathilde Johansson was one of the fallen ones, fighting until the bitter end but eventually losing to Mandy Minella of Luxembourg, 61 57 76(5).

Minella seemed headed for a simple win as she raced out to a 61 31 lead, but Johansson won six of the next eight games to take the second set. Minella built a 4-0 lead in the third set, but again Johansson won six of the next eight games to push it to a tie-break. It looked like history was repeating itself one more time as Minella's 6-3 lead in the breaker shrunk to 6-5, but that's when her luck finally turned - Johansson hit the dreaded double fault on match point No.3.

"It was a very difficult match. I fought hard for the victory and I'm very happy right now," Minella said afterwards. "I think I was more aggressive today, and that was the key. She was playing very well too, especially later in the match."

Minella is part of a growing breed of tennis players who break through later in their careers - the 26-year-old just made her Top 100 debut last week, and she is now one victory away from her very first WTA quarterfinal.

"I think I have a lot more confidence now. I'm at my highest ranking," Minella commented. "I've been improving a lot the last few years. I've been playing better tennis and am at a different level than in previous years, I believe."

Minella was also asked about Monterrey. "It's a beautiful city. There are a lot of things to see, like stores and museums, and anytime I play in México, like challengers, juniors and WTA events, the people are so nice, very warm and welcoming. I really enjoy myself every time I play in this country."

Standing in between Minella and that first WTA quarterfinal will be Yaroslava Shvedova, who had a similar story with fellow Kazakh Sesil Karatantcheva, storming out to a 61 42 lead but eventually grinding out a 61 46 63 victory. Shvedova is a former Top 30 player making her way back up the singles rankings after a serious knee injury; she is currently a Top 5 doubles player.

Minella and Shvedova will be playing against each other for the first time.

Joining Johansson on the sidelines were No.4 seed Alexandra Dulgheru, who fell to Sílvia Soler-Espinosa, 63 63, and No.5 seed Gisela Dulko, who had set point in the second set but lost to Patricia Mayr-Achleitner in two, 64 76(2).

No.3 seed Sorana Cirstea, No.6 seed Greta Arn and No.8 seed Lourdes Domínguez Lino all won, although Cirstea nearly fell as well, facing a point for a 5-3 third set deficit but hanging on to beat Stefanie Voegele, 63 26 75.

Other winners as the first round finished in Monterrey were Eva Birnerova, Valeria Savinykh, Alizé Cornet, Timea Babos and Maria Abramovic.

On a lighter note, while two-time Premier-level champion Dulgheru may not have been able to win like Billie Jean this time, she certainly managed to move to Billie Jean at the player party a few days ago - see the YouTube video below.