GSTAAD, Switzerland - In the end, No.2 seed Johanna Larsson pulled away from wildcard Leonie Kung for a 6-4, 6-1 passage into the second round of the Ladies Championship Gstaad - but not before the teenager had demonstrated some real promise.
"It feels good with a win - it was tough out there today," said the Swede afterwards. "It was hard to know when to be really aggressive and when to hold back - the balls were flying a bit."
Fresh off a run to the Wimbledon junior final as a qualifier last week, Kung's hot form carried over to her WTA main draw debut with a flurry of aggressive winners in the opening stages of the match. The 17-year-old's backhand was a particular standout shot, finding two fine crosscourt angles for winners in the first two games of the match - as well as a brllliant down-the-line laser to save a third break point in her opening service game.
Kung's fighting qualities were also on display: after losing her serve in a tight tussle in the sixth game, the World No.413 upped the pace on her returns to strike back immediately, and when she levelled the scoreline at 4-4 by dictating rallies with smooth ballstriking, the possibility of a shock upset loomed.
Larsson, however, is an experienced competitor who has faced down many a promising teenager - and having weathered some of Kung's best tennis, it was at this crucial point that the Swede began to pull away.
The Swiss player's forehand had been prone to break down, and Larsson began to direct more and more traffic to that wing to take eight of the next nine points for the first set. In the second set, the Nurnberg champion began to increase the efficacy of her serve, in particular the deployment of her kick serve out wide, and would win 100% of the points behind her first delivery - and just three in total on serve.
The 29-year-old's forehand was also beginning to fire, and she began to keep Kung off-balance with its heavy topspin - while, exploiting her opponent's inexperience, lured the teenager into attacking too soon with judicious slices. Larsson's ability to turn defence into offence also came to the fore as she broke Kung for a second time in the set to extend her lead to 5-1.
Kung, who had played eight matches on grass just last week in her Wimbledon run, was beginning to run out of ideas; attempting to redouble her aggressive tactics simply caused more errors to flow. Having kept the first Top 100 player she had faced out on court for an hour and one minute, Kung would end up taking experience away from the match - but not a win, as Larsson coolly served out to love to set up a second-round date with returning mother Mandy Minella.
Afterwards, Larsson said she was thankful that she'd been able to do a bit of scouting on her unknown opponent. "I was a little bit lucky - she played doubles yesterday so I was able to watch a little bit," she explained. "Otherwise I didn't even have a face to put to this girl!"
Nonetheless, Kung's talent had impressed the veteran. "In a few years I think we're gonna see her maybe holding a trophy here," she predicted.