DUBAI, UAE – Veronika Kudermetova produced a stunning comeback to defeat WTA World No.26 Dayana Yastremska in the first round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, 5-7, 6-3, 7-6(2).
The Russian had won both previous meetings between the pair, claiming their only previous WTA encounter with by a commanding 6-4, 6-0 margin in Tianjin last year.
But that run seemed to be coming to an end on Tuesday as she fell a double break behind in the decider, with Yastremska serving for the match. As the Ukrainian faded, though, Kudermetova struck a rich vein of form before eventually dispatching the 19-year-old in the tiebreak.
A first set that saw seven breaks of serve saw Yastremska twice come from behind to move ahead, but Kudermetova rallied to win the second comfortably. The Ukrainian an early advantage in the decider but was unable to close out the match.
Serve was not a strong suit for either player over the course of the match, but particularly in the formative stages. Kudermetova failed to win a point behind her first delivery in either of her first two service games but still managed to enjoy a 4-3 lead with a break.
Yastremska replied with a fierce return to draw level, and though she was subsequently broken once again, found her range in the closing stages of the set to reel off three successive games to claim the first set.
Her 22-year-old opponent, however, improved in the second, largely by virtue of a much-improved serving performance. She made 63% of her first serves and won that same percentage of points behind it.
Yastremska, meanwhile, was punished on her second serve, winning only three of 11 points as she was broken on three occasions.
Even as the WTA World No.39 took command in the latter part of the set to draw level, the games remained highly competitive and the match remained clearly in the balance.
This immediately became evident in the decider as Yastremska moved 1-0 ahead with a break, despite the Hobart semifinalist saving three successive break points.
She then held serve three times in succession for the first time during the match before displaying tremendous resilience to claim another game on the Kudermetova serve.
That proved as good as it would get for Yastremska, who wilted under the pressure exerted upon her in the closing stages of the match as Kudermetova began to find her mark. The first break was grabbed back in double quick time, setting the tone for the final moments.
Indeed, the Russian dominated the tiebreak, dropping only a couple of points and setting up a second-round encounter with Garbiñe Muguruza.