HOBART, Australia - An unseeded and looming Lucie Safarova treated the Hobart International crowd to a tense ending as she closed out a 6-3, 6-4 win over Viktorija Golubic to advance into the second round.
The 2015 French Open finalist is back in Hobart after having to miss the Australian summer swing last year due to an array of injuries and illness, but the Czech veteran is easing into 2017 after a titanic three-set tussle with Barbora Strycova at the ASB Classic last week.
"I hope it's all gone," she said of her struggles in press. "I feel strong and I had great preparation in Florida. I feel good, healthy, so I'm looking forward.
"I pretty much never missed any Grand Slams in my career; it was a tough time for me because I didn't know how long it was going to take. It took four months before I was really able to perform again, but you have to fight through it and that's what I did.
"It was a tough year because I was going to tournaments without any preseason preparation; all the players nowadays are ready and playing well, so I kept losing and losing. That's never easy, but I maintained a decent ranking and I hope I can get back to where I was this year."
Against Golubic, Safarova was in control from the start, needing just one break of serve to clinch the opening set. She raced out to a 5-0 lead from there before the Swiss youngster, winner of the inaugural Ladies Championship Gstaad last summer, clawed back to 5-4, twice breaking Safarova as she served for the match.
"It was a good match. I started great in the first set, very aggressive. I got an early lead in the second set but then it got a little bit complicated; she played a few good shots and the momentum started to shift. Luckily, I stayed strong mentally and finished the match in two sets.
"She surprised me a little bit; I expected it to go smoothly until the end, but she came up with some great shots and it got a little bit complicated."
"It was a great match back then; I was very close to beating her. I just hope to get as far as I can here. Obviously, I'm excited to go back to Melbourne because I missed it last year.
"Today was perfect conditions; it's a very nice center court with nice crowds. It was a pleasure."
"I still enjoy tennis; I think it's a great game and there's always new challenge. Getting back to the Top 10 and winning a Grand Slam are big motivations. I love playing doubles with Bethanie; we have so much fun on the court.
"It's not easy; there's a lot of traveling and that takes its toll on the body sometimes. But as far as that goes, it's good."