LUGANO, Switzerland – Polona Hercog caused a major upset at the Samsung Open presented by Corner as she ousted No.2 seed Carla Suárez-Navarro, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
A solitary break was sufficient for Suárez-Navarro to claim the opening set, but she became passive in the second and was pushed into a decider. In the third, Hercog was the superior player and deservedly advanced to set up a second-round meeting with Sorana Cirstea.
The Spaniard had won the three previous clay court encounters between the pair without dropping a set, but she was out of sorts in an encounter that last little over two hours after rain had delayed its start.
There was little between the players in a tight first set, in which opportunities to break were sporadic for both players, but the WTA World No.27’s ability to raise her game on the big points was decisive.
All of the first seven games went the way of the server but after nearly 40 minutes Suárez-Navarro made the breakthrough. It was Hercog’s first truly loose game as she delivered her only double fault of the set and threw in a couple of cheap errors, and on her opponent’s third chance she finally succumbed by leaking a shot wide.
Serving for the set, Suárez-Navarro showed the kind of security at key moments that her rival lacked to this point, conceding her fourth break point of the set but looking robust when saving it with a fine first serve onto the line.
The solidarity that was evident from the higher-ranked player in the opener dissipated at the beginning of the second as she was immediately broken due to a string of errors.
Hercog returned the favor by giving up her advantage immediately but thereafter kept her nose ahead until the eighth game as both women played conservatively, making few mistakes but equally failing to force the issue.
The Slovenian made the breakthrough in an aggressive eighth game that was out of keeping with what had gone before it. She was able to punch groundstrokes into the corner of the court, allowing her to advance to the net for easy volley winners. Her first break point might have been missed, but the second was not and from there the set was closed out.
With the momentum now firmly in her favor, Hercog set about breaking serve to 15 in the opening game of the decider.
Faced with elimination, Suarez-Navarro became increasingly attacking in her approach, and although this initially paid dividends, as the stakes increased so too did her error count.
Indeed, rather than the seeded player pushing to come back, there appeared more prospect of the increasingly confident Hercog manufacturing a greater advantage.
Suárez-Navarro rallied to save two match points, but Hercog did not miss her third opportunity, sending an ace down the 'T' to register her biggest win of 2019 so far.