No.7 seed Ons Jabeur won the battle of the shotmakers in the first round of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 over Marketa Vondrousova in 1 hour and 40 minutes.
Both players, famed for their touch and penchant for the dropshot, were coming into the tournament with strong form. Jabeur reached her fifth career final in Charleston two weeks ago, while Vondrousova had gone unbeaten as the lynchpin of the Czech Republic's 3-2 win over Great Britain in last weekend's Billie Jean King Cup Qualifiers.
Making her tournament debut, 27-year-old Jabeur overcame a scratchy start to extend her head-to-lead lead over Vondrousova to 3-1. The Czech's only win in the series came via retirement in their first meeting, in 2015 Prague qualifying.
Match management: The contest started with what would be the longest game of the match. Jabeur committed unforced errors on three game points and ultimately ceded her serve after a three-deuce tussle when Vondrousova found a backhand pass to break.
It would be the key game and sole break of the first set; a double fault as Vondrousova served the set out briefly provided a lifeline for Jabeur, but the World No.32 saved break point and closed the opening act out with a dropshot.
Jabeur successfully brought the margins of her game in over the next two sets, playing wth more control to reduce her unforced error count from 13 in the first set to nine in the second and six in the third. Conversely, Vondrousova's watertight first-set stats - five winners and five unforced errors - began to leak in the second, which saw her error count mount to 11.
Indeed, from 2-2 in the second set Jabeur would reel off seven games in a row, and though Vondrousova's level rose again at the end of the third set, the World No.10 never looked like losing momentum. Jabeur closed out her second match point with a service winner down the tee, and will face either Coco Gauff or Daria Kasatkina in the second round.
Jabeur's take: "I thought I was going for the shots, but when you play someone who is picking up all the balls, they kind of get in your head," Jabeur said after the match. "Second set was much better, I was trying to be more aggressive and taking more of my chances. I have to say, playing a lot of matches lately gave me a lot of confidence, going from Charleston to here."
Lys thrills home crowd on debut
No.342-ranked Eva Lys, 20, had already overcome the odds as a qualifying wildcard to make the main draw - her first on the Hologic WTA Tour. The Ukrainian-born German turned in a brave performance full of heart to make her debut one to remember, defeating Viktorija Golubic 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 in 3 hours and 9 minutes. The contest was the joint fourth-longest WTA main draw match of 2022 so far.
Lys had never faced a Top 50 player prior to Golubic, but went toe-to-toe with the Swiss player from all corners of the court. Her speed around the court and ability to deal with Golubic's wide-ranging repertoire of shots were impressive, but most of all Lys proved resilient when it came to scoreboard pressure.
Lys had lost the first set from 4-1 up, and went down a break three times in the second set. Each time, she broke Golubic back immediately and went on to force a decider.
In the third set, Lys found herself pegged back from 4-2. Golubic levelled at 4-4 after saving six break points in that game, and broke Lys to serve for the match at 5-4. But just as the inexperienced home player seemed to be fading, she found some of her finest winners to pull off one last plot twist, taking the last three games and sealing victory with a forehand into the corner.
Lys's reward will be a meeting with World No.1 Iga Swiatek in the second round.
Later, Elena Rybakina managed to hold off the challenge of another young German qualifier, Nastasja Schunk. The pair had been on opposing Billie Jean King Cup teams at the weekend in Nur-Sultan, where Rybakina had led Kazakhstan to a 3-1 victory over Germany, though did not face each other on court.
Back on home soil, 18-year-old Schunk impressed with her power and first-strike game. Rybakina had to come from 4-2 down in the first set, and was pegged back from 5-3 to 5-5 in the second, before quelling last year's Wimbledon junior runner-up. Rybakina will next face No.2 seed Paula Badosa in the second round.
"I had some tough moments with my focus because this was the first main draw match for me at a WTA event, so sometimes I got very nervous," Lys told reporters after the win. "But at the end of the day I was able to make the most important points and I'm very happy to win the match."
Lys overwhelmed by the win: "The match was one-and-a-half hours ago and I'm still shaking. It's great to have a first WTA win, especially in Germany, here in Stuttgart. I'm practicing here a lot with the German Tennis Federation and it was always a dream to play here. To actually win today's match, I'm still speechless."