ROME -- Barbora Strycova scored her first singles win in nearly three years after defeating Maryna Zanevzka 6-1 3-6, 6-3 in the first round of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia. The 37-year-old Czech will face No.9 seed Maria Sakkari in the second round.
A former World No.1 in doubles and No.16 in singles, Strycova returned to competition at the Mutua Madrid Open after a two-year maternity break. There, she played her first singles match since the 2021 Australian Open, losing in straight sets to Elisabetta Cocciaretto.
"To be honest, when I played the match against Cocciaretto, it was a great match," Strycova told WTA Insider in Rome. "After three years of not playing, I was surprised how I was hitting the ball, how I was moving.
"I was like 'Oh my god, I can still play with these girls.' So it gave me confidence that I did something good during the three months of preparing myself."
Strycova took that confidence into the doubles tournament in Madrid, where she re-teamed with Hsieh Su-Wei to advance to the quarterfinals.
Strycova wore down Zanevska on Tuesday by rallying from a 2-0 deficit in the final set to earn her first singles win since defeating Varvara Lepchenko in the first round of Roland Garros in 2020.
"I can't believe it," Strycova said. "I don't know how it feels because I didn't really process it. I went off the court and I right away grabbed my son because he was hungry. So I wasn't really realizing I won the match.
"Obviously it feels great and I'm very happy and pleased because I was so stressed during the match. I felt like I could win and that I have this match and it was slipping away a little bit in the third set."
Facing down No.77 Zanevska, Strycova looked every bit the wily veteran who had not missed a day of competition. She raced out to a 4-0 lead in the first set before the Belgian began to lift her level. Down a break in the third set, Strycova won four consecutive games to wrench back control.
"I'm very happy," Strycova said as her son Vincent patiently played on the couch. "I'm a little shy about being happy.
"Also I feel a little strange because he is here and I will be changing a diaper in a little while instead of getting a glass of wine."
Strycova's level on both the singles and doubles court has been remarkable considering she only started hitting again in February. It took just two months before she was back in fighting form.
"I had that feeling in April," Strycova said. "I was hitting on hard court because I wasn't sure if I would come and play in Madrid. I came home and told my partner that I'm hitting the ball crazy good. I'm winning practice matches. I played good against Petra Kvitova in a practice match. I felt I could do this."
Next up for Strycova is Sakkari, a player she is familiar with. Strycova may have been busy with motherhood and life over the past two years, but the television was always tuned to tennis.
"I have to say, I am relieved a little bit [after getting a win]," she said. "It will be something different because I have nothing to lose. It will be fun.
"Every time I go on court I feel like I can do it, but this will be a big one.
"But you never know. Maybe she will be a little nervous playing against a 37-year-old woman."