Tuesday was a good day to be a Grand Slam champion at the Western & Southern Open, as Victoria Azarenka, Petra Kvitova and Jelena Ostapenko were among first-round winners at the Lindner Family Tennis Center.
Unseeded two-time Cincinnati champion Azarenka was a 6-3, 7-5 winner over No.11 seed Barbora Krejcikova, herself a former major winner, after trailing 5-2 in the second set.
Both Azarenka and Krejcikova entered the match on the back of injury concerns. Krejcikova was playing her first match since retiring with an ankle problem in the second round of Wimbledon last month against Mirra Andreeva, while Azarenka withdrew from an anticipated second-round match against Sloane Stephens last week in Montreal.
But Azarenka started the quicker of the two players in her third career meeting with Krejcikova, winning 12 of the first 16 points of the match, and wrapped up the 1-hour, 45-minute win by winning the last five games.
Krejcikova, who hit 33 unforced errors in the match, never reached set point at any point from 5-2 up; she lost 10 straight points at a crucial stage of the set, which included Azarenka breaking at love in the 10th game.
Azarenka also dug out of a 15-40 deficit on serve at 6-5, and put a bow on the match by winning the last four points.
Kvitova loses first-set lead, regroups in two sets; Vondrousova beats Siniakova in all-Czech affair
Ninth seed Kvitova, who lost to Caroline Garcia in last year's final, also finished with a flourish in her 7-6(2), 6-0 win over Anna Blinkova.
The two-time Wimbledon winner rebounded after losing a 5-2 lead, and two set points at 6-5, to dominate the tiebreak and second set against World No. 37 Blinkova in their first-ever meeting. Kvitova won the first four points of the tiebreak, and 16 of the first 20 points of the second set, to sail through to the second round.
Kvitova’s fellow left-handed Wimbledon champion, Marketa Vondrousova, was also a first-round winner later in the day. The 10th seed came from 5-3 down in the first set of her 7-5, 6-4 win over compatriot Katerina Siniakova.
Ostapenko bounces back to beat Pliskova
A come-from-behind, 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 win leveled Ostapenko's career head-to-head with former No.1 Karolina Pliskova in 1 hour and 49 minutes.
Ostapenko will be the first opponent for No.4 seed Elena Rybakina, who received a first-round bye. The pair nearly met last week in Montreal in the same round, but Ostapenko failed to convert two match points in an opening-round loss to American Jennifer Brady, who was then beaten in three sets by Rybakina in Round 2.