BUCHAREST, Romania -- In an all-Romanian clash on their home soil, wild card Jaqueline Cristian stunned No.5 seed Sorana Cirstea, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, in the opening round of the BRD Bucharest Open on Tuesday.
"I feel amazing that the biggest win of my career is at home, in my hometown," Cristian told the media, after her win. "It’s been a really tough match and I am really happy that I made it through."
World No.210 Cristian upset her 81st-ranked countrywoman after two hours and 18 minutes of play, earning her first WTA-level main draw win of the 2019 season. It is Cristian’s second trip to the second round of the event in her nation’s capital, having also reached the same stage in 2017 after an upset of Kateryna Kozlova.
Cristian won 64 percent of points off of Cirstea's second serve, and although the wild card let 10 of her 15 break points go begging in the match as a whole, she converted two of her three chances in the final set. Cirstea, who reached the Bucharest quarterfinals last year, was unable to create a break point in the decider.
"I was expecting a really tough one," said Cristian. "Emotionally, it was also a little bit tough, let’s say, because we’re two Romanian girls, we know each other, we practiced two months ago. I was expecting a really good opponent, but I think I was really prepared mentally for the match, and I made it, so I’m happy."
"There were very close games," Cristian added. "It wasn’t an easy match, we had to fight for every point, very long rallies."
"I really enjoyed playing in front of this crowd because they’re really supportive," the wild card continued. "I heard my name a lot -- obviously they’re also shouting for Sorana. Everyone was there, I think for both of us; there were also neutral people. But I felt the support and it encouraged me to make it through."
Cirstea claimed an early 3-0 lead in the match, but she had to save three break points to consolidate after breaking Cristian in the second game of the clash. Cristian saved a break point to hold for 3-1 and stay within touching distance, and was rewarded when she used beautiful backhands to get back on serve in the very next game.
That shot continued to serve Cristian well in the opener, using that wing to break her compatriot once more for a 4-3 lead. Cirstea saved two set points to hold for 5-4, ending a five-game run for Cristian, but the wild card nevertheless served out the opening frame in the following game, converting her fifth set point with another backhand winner.
In the second set, Cirstea again went up an early 3-0 lead, and the higher-ranked Romanian extended that lead further this time, reaching 4-1. As in the first set, though, Cristian struck back, using fine footspeed to draw errors from Cirstea, and the wild card got back on serve at 4-3.
Cirstea, however, was undaunted in the second stanza, and after a quick hold to lead 5-4, the No.5 seed attacked in Cristian’s next service game, firing a backhand winner down the line to reach triple set point. On her first chance to clinch the set, a backhand by Cirstea dribbled over the netcord for a winner, and she had leveled the match at one set apiece.
In the decider, though, it was smooth sailing for Cristian. The wild card earned a service break in the opening game of the final set after Cirstea hit a backhand wide on break point, and Cristian broke once more for 3-0 after she forced an error from her opponent with a fiery forehand. After holding once more with a down-the-line backhand winner, Cristian had a commanding 4-0 lead.
Cirstea held serve twice in a row, but Cristian was not fazed when serving for the match at 5-2, as the wild card converted her first match point after Cirstea sent a return long.
21-year-old Cristian will now face Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina for a spot in the quarterfinals. Rybakina defeated Paula Badosa of Spain, 7-5, 7-6(4), in the first round on Monday.