MOSCOW, Russia - Unseeded Karolina Muchova took down Moscow favorite Svetlana Kuznetsova in a dominant straight sets performance to kick off her debut campaign at the VTB Kremlin Cup. 

Muchova came into the Russian capital seeking to recapture the momentum that lead her to claim her first career WTA title at the Korean Open earlier in the Asian Swing. In Seoul, dropped just one set in her five matches, taking down the likes of Timea Babos, Wang Yafan and later Bronx champion Magda Linette in the final. 

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She’s cooled off since Seoul, though: after withdrawing from Wuhan, Muchova suffered just her second opening-round loss of the season in Beijing. 

Sitting at a career-high ranking of World No.35, Muchova kept her cool on Centre Court against home favorite Kuznetsova, who was playing in front of her adoring Russian home crowd. Kuznetsova lifted the trophy here in back-to-back years in 2015-2016, and has been bouncing back emphatically after injuries left her sidelined for months at the start of the season. 

Kuznetsova had the Czech under pressure at the start, fighting her way to four break points in the first game. But Muchova fought off all four and struck first a game later, breaking for a 2-0 lead and consolidating for 3-0. Kuznetsova was right back in the chase, earning a break of her own at 3-2 to get them back on serve. 

The joy was short-lived, however, as Muchova raised her level to break straight back and make it 4-2, peppering in smart forays to the net into her game and disrupting Kuznetsova’s rhythm. The gambit worked, and Muchova was rewarded with another break to close out the opening set. 

The 23-year-old Czech was settled into the match as she started the second set in the same way as the first, claiming a break at 2-0 and extending her lead to 3-0. Kuznetsova put in one last stand, reeling off three games in a row and fighting her way back to 3-3. But Muchova was undaunted, and she sharpened up to take the next three games of her own and claim the victory 6-2, 6-3 after an hour and 16 minutes.

Muchova overpowered Kuznetsova with 27 winners and 30 unforced errors, keeping the Russian contained to 11 and 13, respectively. The Czech was dominant at the net as well, winning 13 of 17 points from that position, and as a result Muchova broke Kuznetsova five times en route to victory. 

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The win adds to Muchova’s impressive tally in what has been her breakthrough season, winning 14 of her last 18 matches. 

Into the second round of the VTB Kremlin Cup, Muchova will take on No.4 seed Donna Vekic in her next match.

More to follow...