VICTORIA PARK, Hong Kong - Kristina Kucova scored her WTA main draw win in over a year - and her biggest since the 2016 Coupe Rogers - on Monday night at the Prudential Hong Kong Tennis Open, rallying from a set down to defeat 2017 Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.
"It's a great feeling to play on such a big court against a great player," she said after the match. "After struggling so long with my knee and my health, it's a good pump and push to keep going."
Kucova last made waves on the WTA tour two years ago in Montréal, where she earned back-to-back wins over Carla Suárez Navarro and Johanna Konta to reach the semifinals as a qualifier. The Czech veteran was similarly emphatic under the lights in Hong Kong, outlasting the Latvian after nearly two hours on Centre Court.
"From the beginning, I felt great on the court. It was my first match since April on hardcourts, so I needed time to adjust my game. I had chances in the first set, and didn't make them. Jelena played a great three games but I didn't give up. I said, 'Just keep going.' The other two sets were good from my side, so I'm very happy with the win."
Ostapenko was looking to earn a rare win on the Asian Swing this fall, having struggled with a left wrist injury at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open and the China Open, and looked poised for victory after roaring back from a break down to win the opening set.
Kucova responded in style, racing out to a 5-1 lead and surviving a late surge from the Latvian to level the match.
"It's different to play in the evening, not so usual. There's more humidity, but I really like it. The people were great, too!"
The pair exchanged breaks early in the decider but it was Kucova who kept in front as Ostapenko struggled with her range, dropping serve twice more to bow out in the opening round.
Up next for Kucova is Bulgarian lucky loser Viktoriya Tomova, who survived a final set tie-break against Dalila Jakupovic earlier in the day.