CINCINNATI, OH, USA - Daria Gavrilova has booked her spot in the second round of the Western & Southern Open in commanding fashion, notching the first upset of the tournament over No.13 seed Kristina Mladenovic.
Firmly in control throughout the one-sided opening set, the No.26-ranked Gavrilova weathered a late comeback bid from Mladenovic to seal the 6-0, 7-6(6) after an hour and 40 minutes.
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“I knew that Kiki didn’t play her best game [in the first set], or probably throughout the whole match, but neither did I,” Gavrilova admitted in her on-court interview. “First rounds are always tough. So I’m just happy for the W.”
Though she’s known for her high-energy, scrappy game, Gavrilova didn’t have to do much to break three times and shut out the No.13 seed from the opening set. The Australian played low-risk tennis, guiding the ball back and waiting for Mladenovic - who struggled with timing throughout the set - to misfire.
The Frenchwoman finally got her name on the scoreboard to start the second - holding serve after a marathon battle - before being broken once more to love by a determined Gavrilova. But this time around, Mladenovic grabbed the break straight back as she slowly seemed to find her rhythm, piling the pressure on her opponent.
She took advantage of Gavrilova’s dip in form to break the Aussie as she was trying to serve out the match, leveling the score at 5-5 and carrying the momentum to take them into a tiebreaker. They were neck and neck for much of the decider before a misfired forehand sent Gavrilova into the second round.
“We have pretty similar game styles, both like to be aggressive with the forehand and pretty creative. It’s always tough to play someone similar to you, and we’re pretty good friends off the court too.”
“Because I won the first set, I was probably able to play a bit more free during the tiebreaker - although it didn’t look like it!” Gavrilova joked.
The victory continues a positive trend as Gavrilova builds on last week’s results - the Australian halted a three-match winless streak in Toronto with a win over Lara Arruabarrena, and now she has scored her first victory over a Top 20 player since Rome earlier in the season.
But for Mladenovic, it’s her second straight opening round loss of the North American hardcourt season after crashing out in her Toronto opener having posted a second-round exit earlier in Washington DC.
Through to the second round after a tough battle, Gavrilova will take on the winner between Italian qualifier Camila Giorgi or Bastad champion Katerina Siniakova.