TAIPEI, Chinese Taipei - No.2 seed Timea Babos returned to the scene of some of her fondest memories to post a hard-fought 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over qualifier Aldila Sutjiadi in the first round of the Taipei OEC Open in two hours and one minute.
The Hungarian, who defeated Misaki Doi to win this tournament in 2015 as well as collecting her third and most recent WTA Tour trophy in the same city (but a different venue) in 2018, was fresh off her doubles triumph at the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen alongside Kristina Mladenovic - and over the course of the first set was taken by surprise by the quality of her unheralded opponent.
World No.357 Sutjiadi, a graduate of the University of Kentucky who has raised her ranking over 300 places since finishing 2018 at World No.664, won 86% of her first serves as an error-strewn Babos was unable to get a foothold in the opening set, successfully holding off a late fightback from the former champion whose power began to find its mark in the closing stages of the set. Though Babos carried that momentum over to hold a 2-0 lead in the second set, Sutjiadi came storming back with some bold baseline striking - and during a marathon 4-4 game, the Indonesian No.1 would hold one break point that would have given her the opportunity to serve for a career-best win.
But the 24-year-old's forehand found the net, and thereafter Babos took control, breaking to love to level the match. Sutjiadi again showed fight from a break down in the decider, pegging Babos back from 0-3 to 3-3, but the World No.104 would manage to squeeze out her opponent in the closing stages, eking out two three-deuce games before serving out the match to love.
Elsewhere, No.6 seed Kaja Juvan's comeback from her summer hiatus to complete her high-school exams has begun to click, with the Slovenian needing only 42 minutes to dismiss British qualifier Emily Webley-Smith 6-1, 6-2; and in a battle of local teenage wildcards, unranked 15-year-old Yang Ya-Yi impressed by upsetting 18-year-old World No.637 Joanna Garland 6-3, 6-3 for her first WTA 125K victory. Meanwhile, qualifier Storm Sanders' return to singles action continued apace with a 6-1, 6-4 defeat of wildcard Hsu Ching-Wen: the Australian has mostly competed in doubles this year, but dipping into the ITF World Tennis Tour last month brought the former World No.202 the biggest title of her career to date at the Playford ITF W60 event.
However, there would also be heartbreak for Australia as Naiktha Bains - a former Australian who began to represent Great Britain this year - came out on top of a two-hour, 21-minute struggle over Arina Rodionova 6-3, 6-7(3), 7-5; while Bulgaria's Isabella Shinikova posted a 6-2, 6-4 upset of No.7 seed Bibiane Schoofs in one hour and 13 minutes.