‘S-HERTOGENBOSCH, Netherlands - Ekaterina Alexandrova claimed her first-ever victory at the Libema Open in style, completing a first-round stunner over No.3 seed Elise Mertens in straight sets, 6-4, 6-2.
“She’s a tough competitor, tough opponent,” Alexandrova acknowledged afterwards. “The start for me was not that great, but after a few games I started to feel more confident on the court, and I think that helped.”
It’s the latest result in the Russian’s total turnaround in 2019: after reaching semifinals in Budapest and quarterfinals in St. Petersburg, Alexandrova suffered a slump and, up until about three weeks ago, she was on a seven-match losing streak that dated back to Indian Wells.
But she snapped that streak at Nurnberg, and charged into Paris where she recorded her best result ever at a Grand Slam when she reached the third round of Roland Garros. Along the way, she upset No.30 seed Mihaela Buzarnescu and former finalist Sam Stosur before falling to newcomer Aliona Bolsova.
Alexandrova carried all of that momentum into the Libema Open, her first stop in the grass swing, but she found herself down a break early on as Mertens took the lead, 2-0. That would prove to be the Belgian’s only lead of the match as Alexandrova got going, breaking straight back and leveling the score.
She went on to outlast Mertens twice at critical points of the set: she converted her third break chance to get ahead 4-3, and fought off a break point of her own to hold for 5-3. That was enough to seal the opening tilt, which she took with a final hold to love.
Alexandrova was just as dominant in the second set against Mertens, whose career best result on grass was a quarterfinal here in Den Bosch in 2016. The Russian broke early to establish a 1-0 lead, and held it for most of the set before she surged ahead to 4-1. The pair traded breaks as Mertens made a final push to turn things around, but Alexandrova wouldn’t be denied, triumphing 6-4, 6-2 in an hour and 10 minutes.
“I didn’t have a super strong preparation for grass court,” she explained. “I played here for a couple of days, and I just really like to play on grass. It’s exciting for me, I was waiting for it.”
Up next, Alexandrova will take on another Belgian player in the next round as she faces qualifier Ysaline Bonaventure. Bonaventure defeated the Belgian-born French player Fiona Ferro 6-2, 2-6, 6-0 earlier in the day to advance.
“I know [Bonaventure], but not too much about her game,” Alexandrova admitted. It’ll be the pair’s first meeting. “We’ll see how the match goes.”