HIROSHIMA, Japan -- Anna Karolina Schmiedlova picked up the first win at the Hana-cupid Japan Women's Open's new venue in Hiroshima, as the Slovak advanced into the second round on Monday morning when No.3 seed Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan was forced to retire due to a lower back injury after losing the opening set 6-2.
"I’m really, really happy that I won today because I didn’t win any matches in a few weeks," Schmiedlova said, following the match. "I just fought, and prepared as I could, because it was raining for three days in a row, so it wasn’t easy."
"She had some problem with her back, probably, so it wasn’t as I wanted it to be," Schmiedlova continued. "But I’m very happy that I can play the second round here. I’m happy to be here and I really like this tournament."
The tenth edition of the tournament is celebrating its debut in Hiroshima, having spent the last three years being one of two events in Tokyo. But the first match on the center court at this site was a short one, as Putintseva could only muster up 45 minutes of play before retiring. This gave Schmiedlova her first victory over the Kazakh in their three meetings.
Before the retirement, Schmiedlova was the aggressor, particularly off the forehand side, and wrapped up the match with ten winners and a matching number of unforced errors. Putintseva had only four winners, to nine unforced errors, and was unable to convert either of her two break points before her injury became too much for her.
23-year-old Schmiedlova, who won her third career WTA singles title in Bogota earlier this season, will face either wild card Misaki Doi of Japan or Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland in the second round.
World No.83 Schmiedlova got off to a fast start, holding at love and then breaking Putintseva for 2-0, claiming eight of the first nine points in the process. The Slovak raced ahead with penetrating forehands which flummoxed Putintseva, and she continued to stay in front, saving two break points to hold for 4-1, closing out that game with a backhand winner down the line.
Putintseva, ranked 55th in the world, stayed within one break for the next couple of games, using her drop shot to good effect as the players advanced to 5-2. However, following that game, Putintseva took a medical time-out and received treatment on her back.
In the next game, 23-year-old Putintseva rebounded from a 0-30 start to reach game point, but more strong forehands from Schmiedlova allowed the Slovak to advance to break point, which doubled as her first set point. There, Putintseva double faulted, handing a one-set lead to her opponent.
Schmiedlova started the second set on serve by picking up three of the first four points, only ceding one with a double fault. Facing game point at 40-15, the clearly hampered Putintseva decided her lower back was in too much distress to continue, and she walked to the net to shake hands with her competitor and the chair umpire.