TASHKENT, Uzbekistan -- Defending champion Margarita Gasparyan of Russia faced a stern test before winning her opening match at the Tashkent Open on Tuesday, eventually prevailing over Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland by the scoreline of 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 to advance to the second round.
No.2 seed Gasparyan notched her second WTA singles title when she triumphed in Tashkent last season as the World No.299. In her first match back as the titleholder, the Russian was severely pushed by World No.128 Voegele before emerging victorious after two hours and nine minutes of play.
World No.55 Gasparyan let nine of her 13 break points go begging during the tilt, but her four successful service breaks outpaced Voegele by one, which made the difference in a tight third set.
The match started off with both players being perfect when they got their first serves into play through 3-3. However, Gasparyan put an end to that run in the very next game, earning the first break after a rally forehand by Voegele flew long at 30-40. Serving for the set at 5-4, Gasparyan lost one set point with a double fault, but a netted return from Voegele gave the Russian the opening frame.
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It was Gasparyan, though, who double faulted away the first break of serve in the second set, giving Voegele a 3-1 lead. Gasparyan pulled back on serve at 4-3 after an errant dropshot by Voegele, but the Swiss fought through to three set points at 5-4 after she punched a winning volley. A long forehand by the Russian on the first of those leveled the match at one set apiece.
Gasparyan rebounded to go up an early break at 2-1 in the decider, but failed to convert any of four break points to give herself a commanding 5-2 lead. After Voegele escaped with a hold for 4-3, the Russian faltered, and she hit back-to-back double faults to allow Voegele back at level footing at 4-4.
Voegele’s comeback was short-lived, though, as she fired two errors in a row to drop serve in the next game. Gasparyan refused to let her opportunity slip away again, and a Voegele rally forehand into the net on the second match point allowed the Russian’s title defense to advance at least one round further.
Gasparyan will meet Danka Kovinic in the second round, after the player from Montenegro won her first-round match on Monday. Kovinic won their first two meetings in 2013 and 2015, but Gasparyan triumphed in their most recent meeting, in Mumbai last season.
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Other seeded players joined No.2 seed Gasparyan in the second round on Tuesday. No.5 seed Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic claimed a first-round win over Jasmine Paolini of Italy, 6-4, 6-4. Pliskova fired seven aces in the 80-minute encounter.
No.7 seed Timea Babos also earned a straight-set win, moving past Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens, 6-2, 7-5 in an hour and a half. Babos’s five aces helped her win over three-quarters of her first-service points.
Belgium did get a player into the winner’s circle on Tuesday, as Ysaline Bonaventure claimed a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Uzbek wildcard Akgul Amanmuradova. Two-time Tashkent Open finalist Amanmuradova fell short on home soil as Bonaventure never dropped serve in the clash.
Pauline Parmentier of France also picked up a first-round victory without having her serve broken, as she eased past Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia, 6-1, 6-2 in an hour and nine minutes.