MONTRÉAL, Canada - Last year she was the darling of the Rogers Cup in Toronto, and with a dramatic win on Day 1 she might just be the same thing this year in Montréal. Roberta Vinci came back from the brink of defeat in the first round of the Premier event on Tuesday, edging Yanina Wickmayer, 62 36 75.
Vinci had won her last three meetings with Wickmayer in straight sets but this one was nothing like that, not after the first set at least. Wickmayer took the second set and charged ahead 5-1 in the third, even holding a match point at 5-2, but she double faulted - eventually the Italian closed in and closed it out.
"I played a good first set and had a lot of chances to break her in the second set, but she was starting to play better," Vinci said. "In the third set I just told myself, 'Fight every point, every point,' and I got back into it. I was hitting my forehand especially well in the third set. I was really focused at the end.
"I was a little bit lucky on her match point - maybe she panicked a little bit - but I'm so happy to win today, because Yanina's a really tough player."
Last year Vinci had an absolute breakthrough week at the Rogers Cup. After an eerily coincidental first round win over Wickmayer she scored her first win over a reigning World No.1 in the second round, beating Caroline Wozniacki. She would beat Ana Ivanovic in the third round and make the quarterfinals; the result would propel her into the Top 20 for the first time the Monday after.
The Italian also wrote her first WTA Player Blog for wtatennis.com that week.
Another coincidental match-up is up next for Vinci: Ivanovic, who is the No.11 seed this week. Ivanovic leads Vinci in their head-to-head series, 5-2, though Vinci has won two of their last three meetings (all in 2011).
Other winners in the day session on Day 1 were Chanelle Scheepers, Ekaterina Makarova, Tamira Paszek, Carla Suárez Navarro, Simona Halep and qualifiers Jana Cepelova and Sesil Karatantcheva. Scheepers had the most bizarre win of the bunch, winning 10 games in a row from 61 32 down for a runaway 16 63 60 win over Canadian wildcard Stéphanie Dubois.
"She's been Top 100 and has done really well in Canada before, so I knew I was in for a tough match today," Scheepers said. "She started out really well and the crowd was behind her, too, but I found my feet and started making her play longer points, and I was able to turn the match around in the second set.
"We had long rallies and it was very physical. We both competed very well."
Suárez Navarro was also blown out in the first set but rallied to beat fellow Spaniard María José Martínez Sánchez, 16 64 63. "Whenever you play a friend it's always difficult," Suárez Navarro said. "We practice together and spend a lot of time together in tournaments, and we play Fed Cup together, so it's difficult to play against her. But then it can also be good to play against someone whose game you know. Anyway I'm happy to be in the next round."
"I've played her a couple of times before and know her from juniors as well," Paszek said. "She's the No.1 player in the world right now. She's a great competitor and really tough to play against. But I had a good match against her in Wimbledon, and this is a new tournament, too. I feel great here, like home. I have great memories from 2008. I will try to enjoy it and give my best."
Though Azarenka has won all three previous meetings in straight sets, two of them have been close, and Paszek knows a thing or two about beating No.1s here - her only previous win over a No.1 came right here in 2008, over Ivanovic.