PERTH, Australia -- Donna Vekic and Borna Coric each scored their second straight-set wins in as many matches at the United Cup in Perth to give Croatia a 2-0 lead against France.
On Monday, Vekic prevailed 6-4, 6-3 against Alize Cornet. It was her second win in a row against the Frenchwoman on Australian soil. The pair had notched one win apiece against each other, but their most recent encounter had gone to Vekic in the second round of the 2020 Australian Open.
Teeing off with her forehand at every opportunity, Vekic landed 34 winners compared to Cornet's 13 -- but the latter was not as watertight as she could have been, also committing 20 unforced errors.
Coric had his hands full Monday against Arthur Rinderknech, but stayed cool under pressure to dominate both tiebreaks, ultimately winning 7-6(1), 7-6(2) to put his team in a commanding position.
“It feels great, obviously,” Coric said after the match. “I was very happy with my performance. I thought I was serving very well and in the first set, when I lost the break, I stayed calm so that was very important for me. I’m just very happy with the win and to get the point for my team.”
The key to Vekic's win was her resilience in coming through the most difficult moments of the match. She chased down a Cornet drop shot to seize the first break of the match for 2-1, then fended off two break points to consolidate her lead.
Up a double break at 4-1, Vekic, 22, had to fend off a valiant comeback attempt from Cornet, who held four break points to level at 4-4. But Vekic navigated through seven deuces for a crucial hold and went on to close out the set as Cornet sent a backhand long.
After an immediate break in the first game of the second set, Vekic held her lead through to the end of the match. The sixth game was key here as the former WTA No.19 came through four deuces, saving one break point with a bold drive volley, to hold for 4-2.
"I had a very difficult opponent," Vekic said. "There was a lot more pressure, and to be the first one opening the tie is quite tricky. But I'm pleased with my level of tennis. It was a good match overall. I'm not very good at starting the year well, so this is really important for me to get some confidence heading into the Australian Open."
The winner of this Group F tie will advance to the Perth City Final against either Greece or Belgium, and it could come down to the second mixed doubles decider of the United Cup. But don't hold your breath for Vekic to team up with childhood friend Borna Coric.
"We had a mixed practice and we played pretty bad," she said. "So I don't know if it's going to be us playing -- not just tomorrow, but ever!"