BRISBANE, Australia - No.7 seed Anastasija Sevastova ended the hopes of home favorite Samantha Stosur at the Brisbane International on Sunday, recording a 6-1, 6-3 victory in the first round.
Making her debut in Queensland, the Latvian was nearly flawless in the 63-minute victory, striking 22 winners to just 12 unforced errors, serving eight aces and saving all five break points she faced.
"It's always tough to play the first match of the year, but it's still 2017!" Sevastova said after the match. "I see that I improved a little bit from last season - serve improved a lot, also some strokes, movement on the backhand side.
"I'm trying to play a bit aggressive sometimes, but it's good to see in the first match that there are some improvements."
Sevastova defeated Stosur for the third time in five career meetings, but recorded her first victory on hard courts in their head-to-head in just over seven years, having last done so in Beijing in 2010.
The World No.16 was quick to move into the lead after dropping the first game of the match, holding to love to draw even before edging ahead behind the first of four breaks she earned in the match.
Forced to save a trio of break chances for Stosur in the fourth game, Sevastova rose to the occasion to hold on to her lead, later adding insurance with a love break in the fifth game and sprinting to a one-set lead in exactly 30 minutes behind her sixth in a row.
Stosur, who landed just 33% of her first serves in the opening set, did her part to rectify that statistic in the second set, more than doubling her percentage by landing 11 of her 20 deliveries (77%). As a result, the Australian managed to stay level with a streaking Sevastova on serve for much of the set.
After saving a break point which would've seen Stosur move ahead 2-0 in the set, the Latvian won a staggering 19 points in a row behind her serve, and secured the lone break of the set in the eighth game to help steer her way to victory.
"Top players, they're serving better. When you have a good first serve on hard court, it's always easier to win the point," she said. "I'm not that big, but I can still improve my serve and my placement of it. It's a small margin to improve."
For Stosur, the opening round defeat is her fourth in her last five appearances in Brisbane. Nonetheless, the Aussie is looking forward to another swing at home, where she has historically struggled over the course of her career, after recovering from a stress fracture in her right hand, which plagued the second half of her 2017 season.
"I think she actually played a really good match. I think she served exceptionally well and was really accurate and made a lot of first serves, so that was really difficult for me to try and attack and get into some return games," the Aussie said.
"I had a few break point opportunities and she came up with the goods every time, so there's only so much you can do about that. I think the first set probably my serve percentage let me down and second set I feel like I did that a lot better. She's a quality player, so I knew it was going to be a tough one. There's obviously things that you want to do better and things that I'll be certainly working on before I play in Sydney."