PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- Two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia ousted one of the highest-ranked players in the J&T Banka Prague Open on Tuesday, eliminating No.4 seed Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania, 6-4, 6-2, in the opening round.
After the match, Kuznetsova told the press that the keys to victory were "just playing and enjoying tennis" and her "fighting spirit."
Kuznetsova, a semifinalist at the event in her last appearance in 2016, ousted World No.29 Buzarnescu after an hour and 25 minutes of play. The Romanian was the runner-up at Prague last year, but finds herself on the losing end against Kuznetsova in their first-ever meeting.
The Russian, currently ranked World No.109, won a whopping 76 percent of points behind her strong first serve, and broke Buzarnescu four times while only dropping serve once. Kuznetsova made her season debut just this month in Lugano, but has built up a 4-2 record on clay since that point as she works toward the French Open, which she won in 2009.
Former World No.2 Kuznetsova will take on Jil Teichmann in the second round, as the Swiss qualifier defeated Russia's Ekaterina Alexandrova, 6-3, 6-4, also on Tuesday. It will be their first meeting.
"I guess I’ve lost my [last] four matches I’ve played lefties, so I have something with lefties!" Kuznetsova exclaimed. "But I'm getting used to it," said the resurgent Russian.
The first break of the match came early for Kuznetsova, after Buzarnescu punched a forehand volley into the net while down break point at 2-2. Kuznetsova consolidated the break, using solid serving to get through a deuce game and clinch a 4-2 lead.
The Russian continued to power through the opening frame, firing some high-kicking serves to maneuver her way to a set point at 5-4. There, the former World No.2 slammed a forehand winner down the line to wrap up the one-set lead.
Buzarnescu valiantly tried to stage a comeback in the second set. The Romanian No.2 behind Simona Halep fended off four break points in the opening game to eke out a service hold, then crushed a forehand passing shot to break Kuznetsova and lead 2-0.
However, the Russian shut down any hopes of a Romanian runaway by breaking back straightaway in the next game, after Buzarnescu led 40-15, then consolidated to level at 2-2. Kuznetsova continued her run in the next game, breaking Buzarnescu again in another protracted game to lead for the first time in the set.
Kuznetsova saved three break points to hold on for 4-2, and that would be the final chance for Buzarnescu. The Russian eased to the victory from there, winning the final six games of the encounter as the match ended with a long service return by Buzarnescu.