Russia's No.1 Svetlana Kuznetsova sealed her very first WTA victory in her hometown with a dominating performance over Daria Gavrilova at the St Petersburg Ladies Trophy.
WTA Staff

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia - Russia's No.1 Svetlana Kuznetsova sealed her St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy debut with a dominating straight-sets win over Daria Gavrilova. The Russian has only dropped one set against Gavrilova in their three previous meetings, and she stayed just as perfect today, notching a 6-1, 6-3 victory in just over an hour and twenty minutes at the Sibur Arena.

While Kuznetsova has seen plenty of success on Russian soil - she has back-to-back Kremlin Cup titles to her name - this win is even sweeter as it's her very first WTA victory in her hometown of St Petersburg.

Kuznetsova admitted to being a bit nervous at the beginning - it had been 14 years since she'd played in front of her home crowd, after all - but quickly settled her nerves against the younger Russian-born Australian.

She batted away the only break point she faced in the opening set, and broke three times to reel off six straight games and breeze through the opening set. Kuznetsova got ahead early in the second, breaking quickly and holding on to the lead against Gavrilova's high-octane attack.

Gavrilova dug in her heels and refused to yield to the Russian; she came out the winner of a confusing, see-sawing seven-minute game, denying Kuznetsova two match points to hold serve at 5-3. But Kuznetsova wouldn't be denied, taking the match at the second time of asking for a spot in the quarterfinals.

No.5 seed Elena Vesnina is through to the second round at the St Petersburg Ladies Trophy with a win over fellow Russian and regular doubles partner Ekaterina Makarova.

"My first reaction was the same as always when I face her: 'No way!'" Vesnina said of playing her good friend Makarova. "It's not easy to play against your fellow Russians. My matches against Katya are always special. They are very tough mentally, as we practice together during the tournament and we're also playing doubles practically every week. We know each other well.

"Of course I'd like to face Katya in the later rounds of the tournament, but unfortunately she's not a seed here and as the result of the draw we clashed with Katya head on."

Vesnina kept Makarova under pressure throughout the match, staying aggressive and attacking her vulnerable second serve to break five times and advance with a 6-3, 6-1 victory in just over an hour.

"It's tough mentally to play against her," Makarova admitted afterwards. "We play with each other a lot. Today I couldn't play my best game, I was struggling with my serve. And Lena played carefully, without unforced errors."

A pair of 19-year-old Russians also faced off for a spot in the quarterfinals, with No.115-ranked Natalia Vikhlyantseva delivering the surprise of the tournament and stunning No.8 seed Daria Kasatkina in straight sets, 7-6(4), 6-2.

The wildcard is set to crack the Top 100 after reaching her first Premier-level quarterfinal.

"I realized it after the match that I can reach the Top 100 or be somewhere near there," Vikhlyantseva explained in her post-match press conference. "During the match I tried not to think about it. If you think about rankings, you can't win matches."

Vikhlyantseva shook off her early nerves during a tense opening set; the pair wrestled with the momentum and she weathered six breaks of serve to edge past in the tiebreak. Settled in the second, Vikhlyantseva turned the tide and took the match after an hour and a half.

She'll face No.1 seed Simona Halep in the quarterfinals.