Jil Teichmann pulled off a remarkable upset in the first round of the Mutua Madrid Open, coming from a set and a break down, then 1-5 in the decider, to beat No.4 seed Elina Svitolina 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(5) in two hours and 33 minutes.
Teichmann continually found her best tennis with her back to the wall and saved six match points during her third-set comeback - four down 2-5 and two down 5-6, all on her own serve.
"Honestly, I didn't even count them," said Teichmann afterwards. "I was just thinking, I'm 5-1 down, but every game was close - I just ended up losing them. I always believed, even down match points, that I could do it."
The World No.40 becomes the third player to win from match point down twice this season, joining Sara Sorribes Tormo and Svitolina herself. Previously, Teichmann had saved two match points en route to defeating Anastasija Sevastova 6-4, 6-7(8), 7-5 in the Adelaide quarterfinals. Today's result is also her third career win over a Top 10 player.
Jil Teichmann vs. Top 10 players
l. Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 6-2, R2 Wuhan 2017
d. Kiki Bertens 7-6(3), 6-2, F Palermo 2019
l. Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-3, QF Strasbourg 2020
d. Petra Kvitova 6-2, 3-4 ret., R2 Dubai 2021
d. Elina Svitolina 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(5), R1 Madrid 2021
Competing for the first time since a thigh injury forced her to retire in the first round of Miami, 23-year-old Teichmann was nonetheless one of the most dangerous floaters in the draw. The Swiss No.2 has been knocking off milestones on hard courts over the past year, and reached the two biggest semifinals of her career consecutively in Adelaide and Dubai.
But clay is Teichmann's home surface. It's what she grew up on, and where she won her first two WTA titles, in Prague and Palermo, during her 2019 rookie season.
By contrast, Svitolina's own clay prowess is yet to translate to the altitude of Madrid. The Ukrainian's record at this tournament is now just 3-7, and she is yet to go beyond the second round. Teichmann joins Daria Gavrilova, Zheng Saisai and Pauline Parmentier in the ranks of players who have dealt Svitolina first-round losses in the Spanish capital.
For the first half of the match, Svitolina seemed to have worked out the challenge. Keeping her baseline game watertight, she committed just five unforced errors to Teichmann's 13 in the first set. Judicious injection of pace with her backhand and net forays kept Svitolina in the driver's seat as she advanced to a 6-2, 2-0 lead.
But a series of swashbuckling forehands garnered Teichmann the break back - and her intermittent trickle of highlights became a flood. Totalling 15 winners in the second set, she out-maneouvred Svitolina with a series of brilliantly constructed claycourt points, finishing them off with panache on the dropshot or at net.
"I started slow, especially with a lot of unforced errors," said Teichmann. "Giving her too many free points. So I found a way to be more solid, to hit more balls."
The deciding set was a microcosm of the previous two. Teichmann failed to take advantage of her momentum, shedding loose errors as she relapsed into her initial form. Svitolina broke twice and raced out to a hefty 5-1 lead, but on the brink of victory became both too passive and too error-strewn.
An exquisite dropshot to save the second match point against her brought a grin to Teichmann's face - and from then on, her game was free-flowing again. A series of lung-busting points ensued as the match reached its climax, but Teichmann was often a step or two ahead of Svitolina.
Having saved a fifth and sixth match point with another two clean winners, Teichmann controlled almost every point in the deciding tiebreak. From 4-2 up, a flurry of errors opened the door for Svitolina again - but it was Teichmann who stepped up. From 5-5, another delightful dropshot followed by a powerful forehand put her over the line.
Kerber works out Vondrousova challenge
An aggressive strategy also paid off for the unseeded former World No.1, Angelique Kerber, who overcame former Roland Garros finalist Marketa Vondrousova 7-6(5), 6-1 in one hour and 19 minutes.
An intriguing first meeting between two left-handers, the opening set saw both players probe each other's games and counter each other's strengths. Ultimately, Kerber's commitment to going for her forehands made the difference.
Despite Vondrousova's defence drawing early errors from her, Kerber kept unleashing on the stroke. Consequently, the German was able to edge a high-quality first-set tiebreak before running away with the second set, tallying 25 winners to 15 unforced errors overall.
By contrast, Vondrousova was unable to find an effective Plan B once Kerber had started to read her dropshots, despite a brief experiment with serve-and-volleying in the second set. Neither could the Czech match her opponent's intensity on big points, and will particularly rue the cheap forehand error with which she conceded the crucial first set.
Kerber will next face another Czech, No.9 seed Petra Kvitova, in a clash of multiple Grand Slam champions.
Konta, Jabeur ease into round two; Muguruza withdraws
No.15 seed Johanna Konta successfully navigated a potential first-round banana skin, easing past the dangerous Yulia Putintseva 6-4, 6-2 in one hour and 29 minutes. The Briton, who improved her season record to 4-4, faced just two break points in total.
Ons Jabeur, fresh off a green clay campaign that saw her reach the Volvo Car Open semifinals and MUSC Health Women's Open final, kept her form going. The Tunisian defeated Yaroslava Shvedova 6-2, 6-3. In the second round, she will face either former US Open champion Sloane Stephens or lucky loser Danka Kovinic.
Garbiñe Muguruza has withdrawn from Madrid due to left thigh injury. Danka Kovinic takes her spot in the draw as lucky loser, will face Sloane Stephens later today. #MMOPEN https://t.co/psGiBDOGRr pic.twitter.com/Bj5RF36LKB— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) April 29, 2021
Kovinic entered the main draw after No.10 seed Garbiñe Muguruza was forced to withdraw ahead of her clash with Stephens due to the left thigh injury she sustained in Charleston last month.
“This is the worst news and the most painful decision any player has to make. We have been working hard to recover and be able to get to the tournament in good shape, I came a week before to adapt because I really wanted to do well this year in Madrid, at home and in front of my home crowd. But the discomfort has returned and the last MRI it has been confirmed that I have not recovered 100% to compete and the doctors’ recommendation is to stop.
"It is not an easy decision, and it is a great disappointment," the Spaniard said in a statement. "Next year I will try again with even more enthusiasm."