WUHAN, China - Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic completed the first upset of the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open on Sunday, easing past No.13 seed Kristina Mladenovic, of France, 6-3, 6-2.
INSIDER ANALYSIS: Mladenovic weighs in on summer slump.
The Czech had been on a four-match losing streak before winning her first round match at the Toray Pan Pacific Open last week, and continues her upward trajectory here with her sixth win over a Top 20 player this year.
Mladenovic, on the other hand, is mired in a lengthy slump which belies the talent that propelled her to a scorching start in 2017. The Frenchwoman still sits in the Top 10 of the Porsche Race to Singapore, but has now lost her last eight matches -- all in straight sets.
Despite their inauspicious records of late, the match started as a well-played, competitive affair. Both players had solid ratios of winners to unforced errors in the first set, as Mladenovic had 13 of each, and Siniakova had seven winners to six miscues.
Mladenovic was unlucky to cede her service early in the set, which was the turning point of the opener. Serving down 1-2, the World No.15 fell into a 0-40 hole, but dug herself out and found her way back to deuce. But a double fault gave Siniakova a fourth break point in the game, which she converted when a strong return forced a Mladenovic backhand into the net.
That was all Siniakova needed, as she fought off all three break points which Mladenovic had in the Czech's remaining service games in the first set. Siniakova claimed a 6-3 lead when the Frenchwoman pushed a backhand into the net.
The second set was a more straightforward affair for Siniakova, as the World No.50 demonstrated the form which has taken her to two singles titles this year -- the Shenzhen Open in China, and the Ericsson Open in Bastad, Sweden.
After four consecutive holds by the combatants, Mladenovic imploded at 2-2, when a forehand unforced error into the net allowed Siniakova to break at love for a 3-2 lead.
Mladenovic gamely tried to hold onto her serve at 4-2, but an error off the backhand side on break point gave the Czech a double-break lead in the second set. An inspired Siniakova raced through the final game at love, completing a five-game streak to close out the match in one hour and 15 minutes.
Mladenovic did not play a poor match, with 18 winners and 22 unforced errors, but she could not capitalize on pivotal moments. She was 0-for-3 on break points, all of which came in the first set, and fell behind early in both sets, leaving her deflated in the close games near the end of the match.
Siniakova, however, put on a solid display, with 14 winners and 11 unforced errors, and converted three of eight break points while never surrendering her serve.
Siniakova advances to the second round of the Wuhan Open, where she will face Polish qualifier Magda Linette, who eliminated Anett Kontaveit of Estonia, 7-5, 6-4.