LONDON, Great Britain -- No.13 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland continued her resurgent season with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the opening round of Wimbledon on Tuesday.
"Definitely not easy first round, of course, because Anastasia, she's normally regularly seeded at slams, and just, like, Top 20 player, for sure," Bencic said in her post-match press conference.
Bencic, who won her first title since 2015 at Dubai in February, had never lost in the first round in her four previous appearances at Wimbledon. The Swiss player continued that streak with her 70-minute victory over World No.46 Pavlyuchenkova, a five-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist, including at the Australian Open earlier this year.
As solid as the Russian has been at the major events, Bencic was able to improve her head-to-head record to 3-1 in their rivalry, breaking Pavlyuchenkova four times out of 11 break points. Bencic also had 25 winners to just five unforced errors during the tilt.
"I was very focused," Bencic stated. "I think it's very difficult for the first round, because every mistake you do is just punished, so you cannot do much in the first round. You're not playing great always. I think I played a good match, but I think I can still improve."
"It was great obviously to play at Wimbledon, [and on] my lucky court," Bencic continued, regarding her court assignment. "I never lost there, I think, Court 18."
After splitting the first four games, Bencic began to control the encounter when she slammed a winner down the line to earn break point for 4-2, then converted that chance by forcing an error with a strong service return. The Swiss star then saw five set points come and go at 5-2, before at last breaking the Russian for a one-set lead on her sixth chance via a lob winner.
Bencic would go on to earn a crucial break late in the second set, cracking a crosscourt forehand winner to reach break point at 4-3, then firing a backhand winner crosscourt to break for 5-3. Bencic garnered triple match point in the following game; Pavlyuchenkova saved the first with a forehand return winner, but missed her return long on the second, and Bencic booked a spot in the second round.
Bencic, who has reached the fourth round of Wimbledon twice, including last year, will face another Grand Slam event specialist in the second round: Estonia's Kaia Kanepi, who overcame Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland, 5-7, 7-5, 6-4. Kanepi is a six-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist, including elite-eight showings at Wimbledon in 2010 and 2013.
In other first-round results from Tuesday, No.15 seed Wang Qiang, the top-ranked Chinese player in the WTA rankings, reached the second round of Wimbledon for just the second time in her career after ousting Vera Lapko of Belarus, 6-2, 6-2. Wang needed just under an hour to pick up her victory.
Also, No.21 seed Elise Mertens of Belgium dismissed Fiona Ferro of France, 6-2, 6-0, and wild card Monica Niculescu of Romania outlasted former Top 10 player Andrea Petkovic of Germany, 2-6, 6-2, 7-5. Wily Niculescu, who claimed her wild card after winning the Ilkley challenger event on grass two weeks ago, will meet Mertens in the second round.
Belgium picked up another first-round win on Tuesday as Alison van Uytvanck defeated two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2. Van Uytvanck's reward for defeating the former World No.2 is a second-round meeting with current World No.1 Ashleigh Barty.
Barbora Strycova, a Wimbledon quarterfinalist in 2014, claimed the first upset of a seeded player of the day, defeating No.32 seed Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine, 6-3, 6-2. Strycova, twice a finalist at the grass-court WTA event in Birmingham, never faced a break point in her win.
In more matches later in the day, last year's semifinalist Julia Goerges of Germany, seeded 18th this year, claimed a 7-5, 6-1 first-round win over Romanian qualifier Elena-Gabriela Ruse. No.30 seed Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain also was an opening round victor, defeating former US Open champion Samantha Stosur, 6-2, 7-5.
Wild card Harriet Dart became the third and final Brit to advance to the second round, as she outlasted American lucky loser Christina McHale, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. Her fellow British wild card, Katie Swan, was less fortunate, as she lost to Laura Siegemund of Germany, 6-2, 6-4.
The longest scoreline of the day occurred when Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia overcame 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard of Canada, 6-3, 5-7, 8-6, in two hours and 20 minutes. Zidansek led 3-0 with a double-break in the second set before Bouchard reeled off seven of the last nine games in that frame to push the match to a decider.
Zidansek twice had a double-break lead in the final set, at 3-0 and 4-1, and served for the match at 5-4, before Bouchard roared all the way back to parity at 5-5. But they did not come close to being the first players to contest the new 12-12 tiebreak, as Zidansek broke Bouchard at love for a 7-6 lead, and served out the match on her second time of asking in the very next game.