Up a set but facing break point early in the second set of her Mubadala Abu Dhabi opener, Marta Kostyuk pulled off a Houdini escape.
The Ukrainian was being run from side to side by Sorana Cirstea's powerful groundstrokes, but somehow stayed alive. The minute she got an opportunity, Kostyuk pounced to turn the point around and finished it with an exquisite drop shot.
Kostyuk went on to lose the set but rebounded to pull away in the third to win the battle of wild cards 6-2, 1-6, 6-2. It was her first win in two meetings against Cirstea, who won their 2021 Istanbul semifinal 6-4, 6-4.
Abu Dhabi highlights: Kontaveit d. Zhang, R1 | Kostyuk d. Cirstea, R1 | Ostapenko d. Collins, R1
Other winners on Day 1 of Abu Dhabi included No.5 seed Jelena Ostapenko and No.7 seed Anett Kontaveit. Earlier, players successfully coming through qualifying to the main draw included Leylah Fernandez, Dayana Yastremska and Yulia Putintseva.