INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA - Former World No.22 Irina-Camelia Begu continued her 2020 resurgence with a stunning upset of Taylor Townsend in the second round of the Oracle Challenger Series Indian Wells, routing the No.4 seed 6-0, 6-2 in just 56 minutes.
The Romanian fell out of the Top 100 last May for the first time in five years, but has dropped down to steadily work her way back, reaching the final of the Szekesfehervar ITF W100 to end her 2019 season last October and taking the title at last month's Cairo ITF W100 - where she told journalists that she is motivated by the possibility of playing doubles with Wimbledon champion Simona Halep at the Tokyo Olympic Games this summer.
Irina-Camelia Begu came through a fantastic match against Marta Kostyuk, advancing at the ZED Open in Cairo 2-6, 6-1, 7-5.— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) February 12, 2020
Begu is fueled by an important goal this season: The possibility of playing doubles with @Simona_Halep at #Tokyo2020 for Romania. pic.twitter.com/UGjvIWgePN
Today, Begu's brilliance easily nullified Townsend's attempts to mix up the rhythm of the game. With her baseline power in fine fettle, the 29-year-old raced through a lightning opening set in 19 minutes, allowing her American opponent a meagre five points. Townsend - who had not competed since reaching the Newport Beach 125K semifinals at the end of January - would have marginally more impact in the second set, but, beset by a flow of careless errors, was ultimately only able to reach game point twice over the course of the match.
The second of those briefly threatened a turnaround as the 23-year-old broke Begu back for 3-2 in the second set after the longest game of the match, a two-deuce mini-tussle - but Townsend could not translate that into any momentum. Instead, it was World No.104 Begu who stepped up, reeling off 12 of the last 15 points to seal her first Top 100 win since defeating Karolina Muchova in the second round of Roland Garros last year.
Elsewhere in second-round action, No.3 seed Bernarda Pera survived the challenge of 18-year-old Wang Xinyu 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 across two hours and 13 minutes of high-octane, top-quality power tennis, coming from a break down in both the first and third sets to quell the former junior World No.2. The match was poised on a knife edge throughout as both players hurled their finest baseline weaponry at each other, particularly in a second set that saw seven breaks of serve - but ultimately it was the American who held her nerve (and serve) at key moments. Serving to stay in the match, World No.137 Wang's first serve deserted her - and though the Chinese teenager boldly saved two match points, she was punished for it on the third as Pera hammered a return winner down the line.
Another upset saw former World No.82 Katie Boulter shock No.2 seed Anna Blinkova 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in two hours and 10 minutes. The Briton, who was sidelined for six months last year due to a back injury sustained in Fed Cup action, counterbalanced seven double faults with four aces en route to scoring her first Top 100 win since last February. Meanwhile, Acapulco quarterfinalist and No.8 seed Zhu Lin eked out a tight second set to move past 20-year-old Ukrainian Katarina Zavatska 6-3, 7-6(3) in one hour and 57 minutes - but 2016 Roland Garros quarterfinalist Shelby Rogers delivered a ruthless upset of Hiroshima champion Nao Hibino, needing only 58 minutes to eliminate the No.6 seed.
The day's most dramatic turnaround came courtesy of former World No.23 Lesia Tsurenko, who returned from a seven-month hiatus due to an elbow injury in January. The Ukrainian has already posted a runner-up showing at last month's Cairo ITF W100, losing to Begu in the final, and today she rebounded from a first-set whitewash to upset No.16 seed Varvara Gracheva 0-6, 6-4, 6-2 in two hours and seven minutes.
Meanwhile, World No.77 Madison Brengle confirmed one of two wildcards available for next week's BNP Paribas Open. The two American players who have garnered the most points across the Oracle Challenger Series - the four WTA 125K tournaments over the past seven months in New Haven, Houston, Newport Beach and this week in Indian Wells - will receive main draw entry into the Indian Wells Premier Mandatory event, and Newport Beach champion Brengle, who fell in the second round to Yanina Wickmayer this week, can no longer be caught.