NEW HAVEN, CT, USA -- In a battle of former Top 50 players, Anna-Lena Friedsam of Germany outlasted Sweden's Johanna Larsson, 7-5, 3-6, 6-2, as the first round of the Oracle Challenge Series New Haven, a WTA 125K Series event, came to a close on Tuesday.
Both Friedsam and Larsson have the exact same career-high singles ranking -- World No.45 -- but the German has had Larsson's number in their last two meetings prior to this encounter, and improved her head-to-head record against the Swede to 3-1 after her two-hour and 14-minute victory in Connecticut.
The German had missed over a year of competitive tennis before coming back from shoulder surgery in February of this year, and has gone from having no ranking at that time to back into the Top 250, after quarterfinal showings at WTA events in Nurnberg and Palermo. Against Larsson, Friedsam converted six of her 11 break points to eke out a victory and advance to the second round.
Larsson broke for 3-1 in the opener and retained that lead up to 5-3, where she served for the set. Friedsam, though, broke there and consolidated to reach parity at 5-5. Larsson then dropped serve for the second time in a row, double faulting on break point, to give Friedsam the 6-5 lead, and the German sealed the one-set advantage after a wide service return by the Swede.
Friedsam then won two marathon games in a row, with ten deuces combined, to go up a break at 2-1 in the second set, but Larsson immediately struck back for 2-2. Larsson then cracked the second stanza open with a break to lead 5-3, after a netted forehand by Friedsam, and converted her first set point in the next game after the German blasted a backhand long.
At one set apiece, the players exchanged breaks to reach 2-1, both of those games being lost with double faults on break point. It was Friedsam, however, who earned another break to lead 3-1, as she started to roll to victory.
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The German improved her aggression, firing strong overheads and solid returns at 5-2, where she reached match point after a fierce forehand. Another error-forcing forehand won Friedsam the match right there, which booked her a date with No.11 seed Heather Watson of Great Britain in the second round.
A handful of Americans joined Friedsam in the winner's circle on Tuesday: Danielle Lao overcame Katherine Sebov of Canada, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, Catherine Harrison outlasted Hungary's Fanny Stollar, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, and Ann Li dispatched Dalila Jakupovic of Slovenia, 6-4, 6-1.
More Americans won their first-rounders on home soil as Sophie Chang defeated compatriot Victoria Duval, 6-3, 6-1, and Quinn Gleason ousted Momoko Kobori of Japan, 7-5, 6-4.
But other players from the United States were less fortunate on Tuesday: former Top 50 player Jana Cepelova of Slovakia eked past Maria Sanchez, 7-5, 7-6(2), Australia's Ellen Perez beat Elizabeth Halbauer, 6-0, 2-6, 6-2, and Paraguay's Veronica Cepede Royg knocked out Allie Kiick, 6-1, 6-0, in just 47 minutes.
Wrapping up the first round were wins by Russia's Valeria Savinykh, who beat Jaimee Fourlis of Australia, 7-5, 6-1, and two-time WTA singles champion Lara Arruabarrena of Spain, who defeated Japan's Eri Hozumi, 7-6(3), 6-0.
The second round begins on Wednesday, which will contain the opening matches for the Top 16 seeds, who received first-round byes.