HOBART, Tasmania - Alison Riske came out on top in a dramatic first round clash with No.8 seed Katerina Siniakova at the Hobart International.
With blustering winds wreaking havoc on the game it was Riske who was able to weather the storm, knocking out Siniakova 2-6, 6-3, 7-5 after two hours and 33 minutes.
“It was definitely a relief to win this match,” Riske admitted in her post-match press conference. “I knew going into it that it was going to be a battle. Obviously she had an awesome week last week, and she’s an awesome player.
“I fought a lot of nerves, and a lot of different things in that match, but in the end I did come out on top which is definitely a relief.”
Siniakova was coming off a fantastic week at the Shenzhen Open, where she reached the final - knocking out Maria Sharapova in the semifinals along the way - before falling to World No.1 Simona Halep.
The Czech brought all of that momentum into her clash with Riske, ranked No.89 in the world. The pair traded early breaks, with the American having to come back from 0-2 down to drag them back level. But with the windy conditions in Hobart, Riske was drawn in to too many unforced errors and second serves as Siniakova reeled of four games in a row to quickly put away the set.
Riske kept a cool head in the second set to find better margins, cutting down on her error count, and switched up her tactics. Instead of exchanging blows at the baseline, Riske routinely bested Siniakova at the net, despite the Czech’s doubles prowess. The gambit rewarded Riske with back-to-back breaks, building up a 5-1 lead. After a bit of a wobble closing it out - Siniakova broke back after fighting off two set points - Riske finally leveled things off to take the second set.
With both players dialed in, it was anyone’s game in the final set. Siniakova held her nerve to fight through a dizzying second game to dodge eight break points - facing 16 deuces - to keep them level. After another lengthy battle, Siniakova earned the first break and consolidated to go up 4-2, seeming to close in on the victory.
But Riske roared back again, getting the break back to bring them to 4-4 and suddenly it was Siniakova who twice had to serve to stay in the match. Siniakova succeeded once, but Riske was too much in the end as the American finally closed out the two-hour and thirty-three minute battle.
“[The third set] was so tough mentally,” Riske explained. “I felt like I had a lot of opportunities on her serve - especially during the really long game that went back and forth. I had like eight break points or something! But I just wasn’t able to consolidate. It can be tiring, but that was my bad for letting it be mentally tiring at that moment.
“I was definitely upset, but I tried to respond by being a bit more aggressive in the next couple games. Then it seemed to go my way.”
The match wraps up round one in Hobart, and Riske advances to play Kirsten Flipkens. The Belgian took down Kristyna Pliskova 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 yesterday.