‘S-HERTOGENBOSCH, Netherlands - Veronika Kudermetova claimed the last victory of the day to seal a rainy first day of main draw action at the Libema Open, edging past Ons Jabeur in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4.
A lengthy rain delay halted play during the match with Kudermetova up 6-3, 5-2 and ready to return serve, but the World No.60 stayed focused to take the win after an hour and 15 minutes on court.
“I think it was not easy today because it was my first match of grass season this year,” Kudermetova admitted afterwards. “I’m so happy to win this match.
“This one is my favorite tournament, because here you feel like at home. This tournament is very quiet, the hotel is quiet, and I feel so relaxed here. So I decided to stay more days here!”
The 22-year-old Russian player came into her first match of the grass season full of confidence after a solid clay swing, recording quarterfinal appearances at Lugano, Istanbul and Nurnberg, before reaching the third round of the French Open - her best Grand Slam result to date.
Even more impressive, her run in Paris pitted her against former Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki in the first round. Kudermetova turned heads with her stunning upset, turning around a love set deficit to oust Wozniacki 0-6, 6-3, 6-3, claiming her first Top 20 win.
She carried all of that momentum with her into her clash against Tunisia’s Jabeur, who was looking to improve on her disappointing 4-7 main draw win-loss record for the year. But Kudermetova was quick to find her rhythm on the grass, and had Jabeur under pressure from the first game, where she created three break chances.
Kudermetova finally broke through a few games later, covering the court and peppering in the occasional dropshot before earning the first lead to go up 3-2. Jabeur struggled to find any inroads into the Russian’s service games - she didn’t create any break points during the opening set - and Kudermetova broke once more at 6-3 to take the set.
Jabeur finally earned her first break of the match at the start of the second set, taking advantage of a dip in Kudermetova’s level to lead 1-0. The joy was short-lived, however, as the Russian hit back a game later to level the score at 1-1. A spate of Jabeur unforced errors a few games later gave Kudermetova the perfect opening, and she broke once more to lead 4-2.
But a game later, the rain that had been interrupting play all day long finally came down once again, with Kudermetova up 6-3, 5-2. When the players came back out an hour later, Kudermetova surged ahead to a 40-15 lead on the Jabeur serve, earning three match points.
Jabeur had other ideas, saving all three match points and holding serve to extend her stay in the match. She broke back to love a game later, and was two points away from leveling the score at 5-5, but Kudermetova took back the reigns just in time to seal the victory after an hour and six minutes on court.
“I started to prepare [for grass] in Moscow on hard courts,” she explained. “We did some work with my legs, stay a little bit lower, go to the net. For me it’s not so hard to change surfaces.”
Up next, Kudermetova will take on either Australian wildcard Destanee Aiava or 2018 WTA Newcomer of the Year Aryna Sabalenka, the No.2 seed, in the second round.
“I’ve never played either of them before. With Aryna, we’re a little bit friendly on tour, and if she wins tomorrow I hope we have a good match. I think that will be great one.
“Destanee, I saw her when she played against Simona Halep in Australian Open. I remember she had like a set and 5-2 but she lost, but it’s because Simona is such a great player. Hopefully I can have a good match with whoever wins tomorrow.”