No.5 seed Elise Mertens needed 1 hour and 31 minutes to end Caroline Wozniacki's return to grass 6-4, 6-1 in the first round of the Rothesay Classic.

Birmingham: Scores | Draws | Order of play

Mertens had lost both of her previous meetings with Wozniacki, but they had not played in over six years -- since the 2018 Australian Open semifinals, which the Dane won 6-3, 7-6(2) en route to her sole Grand Slam title. For the second straight tournament, the Belgian faced a former World No.1 on the comeback from maternity leave in the first round; last week, she fell 6-2, 6-4 to Naomi Osaka in 's-Hertogenbosch.

Wozniacki, who did not enter Roland Garros, was in action for the first time since her Madrid first-round exit to Sara Errani, and playing her first match on grass since Wimbledon 2019. Ten months after returning from maternity leave, she is ranked No.114 and was competing in Birmingham as a wild card.

Mertens will next face Guadalajara runner-up Caroline Dolehide, who saved two match points en route to defeating last week's Nottingham runner-up Karolina Pliskova.

How the match was won: Mertens, currently the doubles World No.1, has broadened her repertoire since last facing Wozniacki, and demonstrated that throughout the match. She raced out to a 4-1 double break lead thanks to a series of skidding down-the-line winners and finely-cut drop shots.

The next two games didn't go so smoothly: Mertens invited Wozniacki back into the set with an errant drive volley and double fault, then the 33-year-old gritted through a four-deuce hold to threaten a comeback.

Instead, from 5-4 up, Mertens regained her early dominance with a run of five straight games, and ultimately seven of the last eight. At times, she out-defended Wozniacki, and it was the latter who was drawn into error in longer exchanges. By the end of the match, Mertens was confident enough to use her full repertoire, closing out the win with a game that featured a pinpoint lob winner and a knifing forehand slice that outfoxed Wozniacki.


Krejcikova snaps losing streak: No.2 seed Barbora Krejcikova, the 2023 runner-up, snapped a five-match losing streak to defeat qualifier Daria Saville 6-1, 7-6(5). The Czech had not won a match since Abu Dhabi in February, and had not notched a completed victory since beating Mirra Andreeva in the Australian Open fourth round.

More highlights: Dart d. Uchijima | Dolehide d. Pliskova | Bouzkova d. Watson

Back on grass, the Czech's fine touch at net was fully on show in a dominant first set. She had to work hard to hold Saville off, though. Krejcikova twice went up a break in the second set, and both times the Australian broke back immediately. However, the former Roland Garros champion edged the tiebreak, winning a marathon 19-shot exchange trailing 5-4 en route to closing out the win. She will next face wild card Harriet Dart, who came through 6-3, 6-3 over qualifier Moyuka Uchijima.

Krejcikova snaps five-match losing streak to defeat Saville in Birmingham