OEIRAS, Portugal - The first round of the Portugal Open kicked off in Oeiras on Monday, with four of the eight seeds taking the court - not all of them made it through to the second round, however.
Varvara Lepchenko, the No.6 seed, was a few games away from victory after winning the first set and staying even through 3-all in the second set; but Svetlana Kuznetsova, a wildcard into the tournament, turned it up from there, reeling off nine of the next 11 games to outlast the American, 67(2) 63 62.
"It was a very difficult match against Varvara today," Kuznetsova said afterwards. "I had a lot of ups and downs, as she did too. The conditions out there were very tough and it wasn't easy to play. I just tried to keep going, keep pushing, and in the end it went my way, so I was happy with that."
Kuznetsova, a two-time Grand Slam champion and former No.2, was very honest when asked what she liked about her play. "Just that I kept trying," she said. "I really didn't like my game today!"
And on getting a wildcard into this week's tournament? "Yes, it's great," she said. "It was my mistake not to enter the tournament. I really appreciate the tournament giving me a chance to play."
"It was difficult to play today with the tough conditions, but we were practicing in the wind the last few days so I was ready for it," Vesnina said after the match. "It's difficult to play your best tennis in the wind but I was just trying to fight through it. Neither of us were playing that well. I'm just happy that in the key moments I was more aggressive and played a little bit better and used my chances out there.
"I was happy to be back on Centre Court. I've played here a few times and always love it here."
Koehler is Portugal's No.1 player and is on the verge of the world's Top 100, currently No.104.
"She's a very talented player," Vesnina said. "I hadn't played her before - I've seen her around a few times but never saw her play. So it was difficult in the beginning because I was trying to figure out what was working and what wasn't. She has a very good forehand - when she has time to set up she feels it really well, and she can definitely give lots of problems to her opponents with that forehand."
Shahar Peer, Estrella Cabeza Candela, Galina Voskoboeva and Aravane Rezai all reached the main draw with wins in the final round of qualifying. Peer and Rezai are former Top 15 players - Peer has been as high as No.11, the highest-ranked Israeli in WTA history, while Rezai was once No.15.