FLORIANOPOLIS, Brazil - While many of their WTA peers are already en route to Rio de Janeiro for the Olympic tennis event kicking off later this week, Jelena Jankovic and Monica Puig have already scored their first wins on Brazilian soil at the Brasil Tennis Cup in Florianopolis.
Located over a thousand kilometers southwest of Rio, Florianopolis is the last stop for many players ahead of the Olympics. In fact, 12 players out of the 32 in the tournament's main draw are also Olympians looking to squeeze in a few more matches before the big event.
Among them was No.1 seed Jelena Jankovic, who made her Florianopolis debut against Russian qualifier Valeriya Solovyeva. The 23-year-old wasted no time in trading breaks with the former No.1. Solovyeva brought up five more break point chances, but the Serbian dodged them all before grabbing the late break to take the first set 7-5.
Jankovic broke twice more to start off the second set with a 4-0 lead, but Solovyeva showed her grit once more by digging in her heels and reeling off three games in a row to cut into the Serbian's advantage. It wasn't enough to take back the momentum, as Jankovic powered on to close out the match 7-5, 6-4 after an hour and forty minutes.
"The conditions changed a lot after the first set to the end of the match," Jankovic said. "I was really just trying my best to play smart and focus to just finish the match. I'm happy with how I played."
Fellow Olympian Monica Puig had a smoother road to the second round of the Brasil Tennis Cup, storming past Anastasia Pivovarova 6-2, 6-3. Puig, the No.3 seed, only dropped serve once during the 70 minute encounter.
The Puerto Rican opened the match by breaking twice and racing ahead to a 4-0. Pivovarova broke back and consolidated to get her name on the scoreboard and stop the bleeding, but Puig went on to rattle off the next five games to grab the set and a break. She held on to that lead and closed out her comfortable passage into the second round.
"Today it wasn't my best day," she said. "I love playing here in Florianopolis, last year I had such a big experience winning the tournament here."
Despite the disappointing 6-3, 6-2 scoreline, Pereira was able to find the positive side of defeat.
"The good thing is now I'm going early to Rio de Janeiro to play my first Olympics - I'm very happy and just want to enjoy Rio and play my best tennis."