BRISBANE, Australia - Mirjana Lucic-Baroni made a triumphant return Down Under, dispatching Germany's Tatjana Maria, 6-4, 4-6, 6-0, to win the first match of the 2018 WTA season at the Brisbane International.
"What a great, fantastic year," she said after the match. "It’s great to end the year with a win. My sister told me I won my 400th match, which was also really cool."
Taking on the noted tour mom, who travels full-time with daughter Charlotte, Lucic-Baroni struggled with the conditions in the first match of the day. Calling the trainer towards the end of the second set, she emerged from the Extreme Heat Rule-induced break far stronger in the decider, rolling through the final five games with the loss of just four points to secure victory in one hour and 52 minutes.
"I called the physio because I wasn’t feeling well, like I was going to vomit. I’m fighting a bit of a virus, so I was really struggling after the first set, like I was going to collapse on the court. Luckily, they gave me some anti-nausea pills and I started feeling better.
"Once I felt better physically, I knew I had to finish fast because I wasn’t feeling great, but good enough to stay focused and end the match quickly."
It was just under a year ago that the Croatian veteran turned back the clock to reach her first Grand Slam semifinal since 1999, upsetting Agnieszka Radwanska and Karolina Pliskova en route to the final four. Lucic-Baroni went on to earn a career-high ranking and debut inside the Top 20 before a right shoulder injury ended her season.
She ultimately showed few ill-effects of the injury on Sunday, particularly on serve, where she managed a 70% first serve percentage - serving as high as 88% in the final set - and saved eight of 12 break points faced throughout the match.
"I didn’t hit a tennis ball for two months, but I was doing rehab every single day, which was a nightmare. It’s something you have to do, and I’ll have to try to manage the pain; there will be good days and really bad days. It’s just something I’ll need to make peace with. I was able to play pretty normally today, which made me happy."
Up next for the former World No.20 will be 2017 Brisbane runner-up Alizé Cornet, who outlasted countrywoman Caroline Garcia, 3-6, 6-3, ret.
"I expect a tough match; she’s a great player and we know each other well. I’ll focus on myself, as always, have another hit tomorrow and try to feel as good as I can. I’ll try to recover and just have fun out there."