BUDAPEST, Hungary – Anastasia Potapova moved into the second round of the Hungarian Ladies Open with a 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(4) victory over Heather Watson.
The Russian made the sole breakthrough of the opening set in its very first game but missed an opportunity to do likewise in the second. Thereafter, it was the British No.3 who took control, using a judicious array of accurate shots, yet her teenaged opponent fought back to prevail.
Early in the match, it seemed that both players might have to battle their serve. The 17-year-old broke to 15 in the first game but immediately had to fend off a couple of break points to keep her nose in front.
Although neither player served especially well in the opening set - Potapova landed 63% of her first deliveries to Watson’s 44% – and the games were typically long, there were few opportunities created by either player. Consequently, the Russian’s early break proved decisive.
The British player’s problems at the start of the second were of her own making as a couple of double faults in succession opened the door to two break-point opportunities for her opponent. Showing impressive accuracy into all areas of the court, she saved herself from the fate of playing catch up from the beginning of the set.
And it proved a watershed moment in the match.
Twelve successive holds were ended off the back of a game in which Potapova’s service deserted her, with two double faults setting Watson up to break for the first time in the match and move into a 3-1 advantage.
From this base, she started to work her young opponent around the court and with a low unforced error count sent the match into a third.
The momentum of the match had shifted, and while the decider remained balanced until the eighth game, there was a sense that Watson was the player in command.
That was finally reflected on the scoreboard when she broke to love, but just as it seemed the turnaround had been completed, Potapova produced her best tennis since the opening set to hit back.
With Watson now ailing, it was the Russian to got over the line in the tiebreak, winning a tight contest by a single minibreak in the end.