JURMALA, Latvia - In the final first-round match to be completed at the Baltic Open, No.6 seed Anastasia Potapova dispatched qualifier Barbara Haas 6-2, 6-3 in one hour and nine minutes.
Having just arrived from Lausanne, where the 18-year-old qualified and reached the second round, Potapova said she was still adjusting to the differences: "It's very tough for me to play now here, because I came from completely different conditions," she admitted. "Different courts, different altitude, different weather. Here it's drier, faster, the balls are more heavy - but I'm just trying to play point by point and adjust what I can."
Nonetheless, the former junior Wimbledon champion has the same strategy in mind from coach Iain Hughes: "Not to try and play some magical tennis right away, just step up my level with each match!" she revealed.
The 18-year-old, who reached her first WTA final exactly one year ago at the Moscow River Cup, displayed impressive clutch play, raising her game whenever the match threatened to turn tricky and striking 20 winners in total. In the second set, Potapova overturned a 1-3 deficit in style, winning five consecutive games to take the match - and in total, the teenager converted five of the 10 break points she carved out while saving eight out of the 10 against her.
Five of the latter came in the very first game of the match, and provided the Russian with an opportunity to showcase her boldness under pressure immediately. Saving all five - one with an ace and another with a brilliant backhand winner on the line - Potapova subsequently raced out to a 4-0 lead, dominating with aggressive returning and baseline play.
A lapse in concentration allowed Haas to regain one of the breaks and get a foothold in the match, but Potapova once again stepped her game up before the Austrian could get back on serve. Staving off a break point that would have reduced her lead to 4-3, the World No.64 instead moved up to 5-2 with another brilliant forehand winner and an unreturnable serve before breaking Haas again for the set.
A spate of double faults from Potapova, who would commit seven in total, and some improved returning and net play from Haas enabled the 23-year-old World No.164 to turn the tables at the start of the second set, breaking en route to a 3-1 lead. But once again, it was Potapova who found another gear. Careless forehand errors from Haas opened the door, and, sensing her opportunity, Potapova roared back into the contest.
"I started to work, to fight and thankfully I managed to turn the second set in my favour," she said afterwards. Slamming groundstroke winners off both wings with panache as Haas began to suffer her own spate of double faults, from 1-3 down Potapova would win 20 of the final 26 points of the match, sending down four unreturnable serves in the last game to seal victory - and a second-round clash against local wildcard Diana Marcinkevica - on her third match point.