LINZ, Austria - No.6 seed Nadia Podoroska edged through a tough battle against Irina-Camelia Begu in straight sets to seal a winning debut at the Upper Austria Ladies Linz.
Podoroska was contesting her first match since her breakout French Open run, which saw the Argentinean - then ranked World No.131 - win eight matches in a row and stun World No.5 Elina Svitolina to become the first qualifier in tournament history to reach the semifinals.
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“This year I learned a lot about myself, about my game. It was a very good year for me,” Podoroska reflected in her post-match press conference. “I improved in too many things [in my game], that was the most important thing.
“After [Roland Garros], I went back to Alicante. I live there, I train in Spain. I basically rested for one week, and then I started training again. So my life didn’t change too much; I’m playing another tournament, so my life is quite the same.”
Her historic run propelled her into the WTA’s Top 100 for the first time, and Podoroska returned to action as the No.6 seed in Linz. She was back to her winning ways after a tight contest against Begu, who is also her doubles partner this week, breaking four times to triumph in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4 in an hour and 45 minutes.
“I’m still just trying to be focused on each match, and I’m trying to learn about this tournament [which is] new for me, and try to improve my game,” Podoroska said, adding, “The courts here are fast but the bounce feels quite slow, which I like. Playing indoors, you don’t deal with bad weather, there’s no sun, there’s no wind, so that’s great for me. It cleans up my tennis.”
Podoroska showed no signs of rust as she charged ahead to an early break to take a 3-1 lead in the first set. But Begu was determined to make every game a fight, and her tenacity was rewarded with a break back to level at 3-3.
The Argentinean stayed aggressive, and finally claimed the decisive break to retake the lead at 5-4 - she had to save three break points in the next game, but the Argentine player edged through to serve out the set on her fifth set point.
Begu refused to fade away, and recovered strongly to start the second set with an early break to take her first lead of the match at 3-1. But Podoroska continued to press the Begu serve, and broke back straight away to level the score at 3-3. Another decisive break at 5-4 put Podoroska back in the lead, and she again dodged break points to defeat her doubles partner, 6-4, 6-4.
“I’m playing doubles with Irina because she’s a great player in singles and doubles, she has great strokes and serves great,” Podoroska told journalists in Spanish. “But most of all, I have a great relationship with her. She speaks Spanish, we get along great, and that’s very important for me when I’m playing doubles with someone.”
“We didn’t know, of course, that [we would have to play each other in the first round],” she added in English. “But we have a very good relationship and we both know that on court, it’s just tennis. And tomorrow we will be together to win [our quarterfinal doubles match].”
Up next, Podoroska will take on Italy’s Camila Giorgi for a spot in the quarterfinals. Giorgi defeated Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 to advance.