HOUSTON, TX, USA - Americans Jessica Pegula and Varvara Lepchenko kept the red, white and blue flag flying high at the Oracle Challenger Series Houston WTA 125K event, sealing solid straight-sets wins to move into the second round.
No.4 seed Pegula took on Italy’s Jasmine Paolini, and found herself pushed to a marathon first set before pulling away in the second to win 7-6(8), 6-2. Pegula and Paolini were evenly matched during a close first set that featured six breaks of serve between both players. Paolini was two points away from the set, serving for it at 5-4 after edging ahead a late break, but Pegula denied her to bring them level at 5-5.
Both players held multiple set points in the rollercoaster tiebreak: first Paolini - once again with the set on her racquet - was denied at 6-4 and 6-5, and later Pegula missed chances to serve it out at 7-6 and 8-7. But finally it was the American that pulled away from the deadlock, taking her third set point to finally put an end to the set after 59 minutes. It was more straight forward in the second set for Pegula - the American rolled to a double-break, 4-1 lead and weathered a late charge from Paolini to close it out in straight sets.
Also in action, No.6 seed Lepchenko outlasted Australian wildcard Michaela Haet to win 6-4, 7-6(3) and advance into the second round. Lepchenko bossed proceedings in the first set, building up a double-break 5-2 lead after fighting off Haet’s challenges. But things got a bit complicated in the second, and the Australian recovered from a break down twice to send them into a tiebreak. Despite her efforts, Haet fell behind 0-4 as Lepchenko got back on track, and the American zoomed ahead to close out the match after an hour and 23 minutes.
While the two Americans advanced into the second round, the rest of the Italian contingent came up empty-handed, going 0-3 as Deborah Chiesa and Bianca Turati were also handed straight sets losses. Israel’s Deniz Khazaniuk took down wildcard Turati in a two-hour marathon, edging ahead after a close first set to win 7-6(5), 6-2, while Hungarian qualifier Dalma Galfi took a similar path against Chiesa, needing an hour and a half to win 7-5, 6-1.
Khazaniuk will face No.4 seed Pegula in the next round, while Galfi will face No.7 seed Sofya Zhuk of Russia - who hoisted a different type of red, white and blue flag in Houston as she took down the United States’ Grace Min 6-3, 6-4.