WASHINGTON, DC, USA - No.2 seed Kristina Mladenovic needed nearly two and a half hours to begin her Citi Open campaign on Wednesday, as she won five of the last six games to battle past Tatjana Maria in three sets, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3.
The Frenchwoman did not have it all her own way against the unseeded German, who was looking to score her first win in the matchup in seven years. Maria broke the Mladenovic serve for the fourth time in the match to lead 2-1 in the decider, but Mladenovic fought off danger from there to advance to the second round in two hours, 22 minutes.
After being forced to save three break points in her first service game of the match, Mladenovic quickly fell behind on Grandstand as Maria broke through in the fourth game, to lead 3-1.
In what was an opening set of runs, the No.2 seed won the next four games on the trot to lead 5-3, but was unable to serve out the set in the ninth game, as she fell behind 0-30 en route to dropping serve for the second time in the set.
However, the World No.13 settled in from 5-5, digging in to save game point that would have given Maria the lead en route to breaking serve for the third time, and duly served out the opener after the change of ends to take a one set lead in just under an hour.
The second set proved the inverse of the first, as the first seven games went by with neither player holding a break point chance, but Maria dug out of a 0-30 deficit in a key seventh game to move ahead 4-3.
The German's momentum continued from that point, as she snagged the lone break of the second and served out the set to love to force a decider.
Four of the first six games of the decider featured break point opportunities, but it was Mladenovic who seized her momentum more often than not, winning four straight games en route to turning a 2-1 deficit into a 5-2 advantage.
While Mladenovic overcame seven double faults, she was afforded more than a few chances on return over the course of the match, as Maria served at just 38% for the encounter overall. That allowed the Frenchwoman to win over 50% of points on second serve returns, and five of six break points.
Around the grounds on Wednesday, Eugenie Bouchard scored her first win since Roland Garros with a 7-6(6), 6-0 win over No.8 seed Christina McHale. The Canadian rallied from a break down in the opening set and needed nine set points to take a one-set lead, before rolling to the first round win.
No.6 seed Monica Niculescu edged Nao Hibino in a marathon encounter, 6-3, 2-6, 7-6(7), while Sabine Lisicki won her first hard court match of the season in two tiebreaks over Greek qualifier Valentini Grammatikopoulou, 7-6(7), 7-6(5) to conclude first round action.
In second round matches, No.5 seed Oceane Dodin saved match points in ousting Sara Errani, 3-6, 7-5, 6-1, while No.7 seed Ekaterina Makarova eased past Monica Puig, 6-2, 6-4. To close out the night, No.4 seed Julia Goerges survived an epic against former French Open quarterfinalist Alison van Uytvanck, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(9).