NOTTINGHAM, Great Britain -- After two completely washed-out days at the Nature Valley Open, 2017 champion Donna Vekic of Croatia at last notched her first-round win at the 2019 edition, getting past Dalila Jakupovic of Slovenia, 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-0.
No.2 seed Vekic and Jakupovic attempted the warm-up on the stadium court outdoors during a brief break in the persistent precipitation, but were never able to get their encounter going on grass as all of the first-up matches were moved indoors. Once there, Vekic let a double-break lead in the second set slip away before rebounding for the win after one hour and 49 minutes of play.
"It’s been a tough week so far," Vekic told the media, after her victory. "We’ve been hanging around the last two days, but it’s been raining the whole time. Today, we actually got out there for a bit, but we had to go back indoors in the end. It’s never easy, but it’s the same for everyone, so you just have to adapt the best that you can."
World No.22 Vekic, coming off of a career-best fourth-round run at Roland Garros, owns more wins in Nottingham than any other player in the draw. Vekic improved her record to 9-2 at the event following her first win over Jakupovic at WTA level. The combatants had previously met at a Challenger in Lagos, Nigeria, in 2011, where Vekic won their tilt in a final-set tiebreak.
Vekic won 72 percent of points on her first serve and claimed over three-quarters of points off of the Jakupovic second serve. Vekic broke Jakupovic nine times out of her 15 break points, despite dropping the second set after leading 3-0.
"I was winning pretty easily, 6-2, 3-0 up, and then she won the set in the end, she started to play a little bit better," Vekic admitted. "There were a lot of good rallies and I’m really happy to win in the end."
"I’m just really happy with my attitude today," Vekic added. "I was not happy to be going indoors -- I love playing on grass. Especially to find my way back after losing the second set in a tiebreak was not easy, but I managed to stay calm and focused."
Having finally eased into the second round, Vekic will now face a lucky loser there. Chloe Paquet of France and Ankita Raina of India, both of whom fell in the final round of qualifying, have each received places in the main draw and will square off for the chance to meet Vekic in round two.
In the first set, Vekic won four straight games to open up a 4-1 lead, punctuating that run with a love service break which ended on a Jakupovic double fault. Vekic handed one break back in the next game, but she quickly reclaimed her double-break advantage after a Jakupovic forehand miscue found the net.
Serving for the one-set lead at 5-2, Vekic reeled off three big deliveries at the back end of that game to close out the opening frame after just under half an hour of play.
The second set, though, was far more complex. It started out completely in Vekic’s favor, as she achieved another double-break lead at 3-0. However, Jakupovic earned both of those service breaks back as her game tightened up, eventually reaching total parity at 3-3 following a forehand return winner on break point.
Vekic had three chances to clinch a pivotal 6-5 lead, but forehand errors cost the Croat each time. Jakupovic fought her way to a service hold after surviving the trio of break points, keeping herself in contention for the set as the players moved into a tiebreak.
Jakupovic used Vekic’s errors to grab a 3-0 lead in the breaker before the Croat came back to 3-3 after a fierce forehand winner. Jakupovic, though, reached double set point at 6-4 after a long backhand by Vekic. The No.2 seed saved one chance with a stellar passing winner off of a dropshot, but on the second, her forehand flew wide, and Jakupovic had tied the tilt at one set all.
But Vekic quickly recovered from the loss of that set, jumping out to another double-break lead, using a winning dropshot to reach 4-0. Vekic dominated the final set, and finished off the match with a return winner to book her spot in the second round in Nottingham.