LYON, France - Camila Giorgi halted Vera Lapko's comeback to the WTA Tour in the first round of the Open 6ème Sens - Métropole de Lyon, coming from an early break down in a clash of unseeded players to triumph 6-3, 6-4 in one hour and 22 minutes.
Five of the Italian's eight career singles finals have come indoors, including the most recent of her two titles at Linz 2018, and the quick conditions at the inaugural French International event enabled her powerful game to thrive after a slow start. Giorgi, who reached the third round of the Australian Open for the second time in January, won 79% of her first serve points and slammed down five aces to set up a second-round clash against home favorite and No.4 seed Alizé Cornet.
Former World No.60 Lapko had not competed at WTA level since Wimbledon last year, having taken a seven-month hiatus to recover from a knee injury, health issues affecting both herself and coach Vladimir Kruk, and low morale. The Belarusian had returned to action last week to reach the semifinals of the Macon ITF W25 tournament, and got off to a bright start today. Striking smooth groundstrokes and landing blows with the easy power of her forehand, Lapko moved out to a 3-1 lead, where a fourth Giorgi double fault brought up a point for the double break.
But the 22-year-old would squander that chance with a cheap netted forehand - and the match would turn abruptly. Suddenly, Lapko was unable to sustain a rally without unforced errors off both wings hoving into view - while Giorgi came to life, cleaning up her double faults and spreading her own powerful blows from line to line. The World No.94 would rattle off five straight games, breaking Lapko twice and closing out the opening act with an emphatic inside-in forehand winner on her third set point.
Though Lapko steadied the ship with improved serving as the second act got under way, the World No.378's ground game was still error-riddled - and she was no longer making an impact on the Giorgi delivery. The 28-year-old would only concede two points across her first four service games of the set, and captured the crucial break in the fifth game as a seemingly comfortable 40-0 lead for Lapko evaporated in a flash of blistering hitting from Giorgi.
The former World No.26 only just managed to avoid getting embroiled in something more complicated: serving for the match, she missed a short forehand into the net on her first match point - and Lapko, as though liberated by being nearly down and out, came up with a brace of phenomenal forehands down the line reminiscent of her initial form. But clutch serving from Giorgi stared down two break-back points which would have levelled the set at 5-5, and consecutive service winners saw her over the line on her second match point.