Stephens survives Yastremska, Gauff passes Sevastova test in Montreal opening matches


Two of the most intriguing first-round clashes in the National Bank Open draw kicked off Tuesday’s game, with former runner-up Sloane Stephens coming in 2-4 in the third set to defeat Dayana Yastremska 6-4, 1-6, 6-4, and No.15 seed Coco Gauff, taking their first victory over Anastasija Sevastova 6-1, 6-4.

World number 62 Stephens was the winner in a match of stylistic contrasts that saw the momentum shift from cover to cover. Opting for a conservative strategy in the face of Yastremska’s blazing strike, the American totaled just seven winners against 27 for her opponent, but kept her total of unforced errors lower at 22 against 38.

It was the first meeting between the two, and as they probed each other’s plays in the first set, neither took real control. Yastremska took an early lead, but was thwarted by a 48% first serve percentage and an error-strewn serve play at 4-4. Stephens delivered solid defense, but also chose key moments to unleash her forehand, with which she found winners to break for 3-2 and to seal her first set point.

The improved service saw Yastremska land 60% of his first deliveries in the second set and, as a result, start to dominate. The world No.50 Ukrainian, playing her fourth event since last November, was in tight control as she accelerated in a 6-1 second set and took a 4-2 lead in the third.

This was as much down to Yastremska’s return as it was to serve: on numerous occasions the 21-year-old pulled deep returns at her opponent’s feet, exploiting Stephens’ footwork and causing repeated punches.

It took courage for Stephens, Simona Halep’s finalist here in 2018, to turn things around. She faced four points to fall behind on a 2-5 double break in the decider, but pushed them back due to a combination of clutch service and Yastremska’s forehand gone awry.

But after eliminating that hold to get back to 3-4, Stephens sailed to the finish line, winning 15 of the last 19 points as Yastremska continued to struggle to find the ground with his forehand. Next up for former world No.3 Stephens will be another popcorn clash against a big hitter, No.1 seed Aryna Sabalenka.

Gauff eliminates Sevastova in the fourth attempt

Gauff had a sub-optimal last month, having had to withdraw from the Tokyo Olympics due to testing positive for Covid-19.

“The timing was terrible,” she said. “The actual experience was not too bad. I had no symptoms other than the loss of smell. My father and brother had it at the same time as I did, so I didn’t have to. quarantine myself. They didn’t have a lot of symptoms either. We were one of the lucky ones. I know that unfortunately other people weren’t so lucky. I am very grateful for to have been able to come out of it unscathed and unscathed. “

Upon her return, the world No. 24 faced a sort of nemesis opponent. Sevastova had won their three previous encounters – each in wildly fluctuating three-set battles, typically the territory Gauff excels in.

At the US Open last year, Sevastova won 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 although she failed to close a 5-3 lead in the second set. In Miami last March, she came back from a loss in the second and third sets to win 1-6, 6-2, 6-3. Two months later at Eastbourne, she reversed a 4-6, 2-5 deficit to triumph 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.

Here, the Latvian had just suffered back-to-back first-round defeats at the Tokyo Olympics against Fiona Ferro and in San José against Petra Martic. She had a nightmare start, unable to find either intensity or precision for much of a first set in which she committed 13 unforced errors to just three winners.

Sevastova, 31, belatedly started clicking only when facing the 0-5 setpoint. A streak of touch-shot winners reminded him of his abilities, but they arrived too late to prevent Gauff from serving the set a game later.

The 17-year-old American delivered her sloppy first serve of the game early in the second set, ending up 0-3. But after that, Gauff played his best tennis of the day to win six of the last seven games. With Sevastova’s level rising, Gauff adjusted well to deal with the plethora of tricks and deceptions that occurred.

In particular, a handful of judicious net forays won key game points for Gauff, and a beautiful dropshot sealed the crucial break for 5-4. In the match, the drawstring played a starring role: Sevastova saved a match point as her pass bounced off the net and Gauff’s racket, but in the face of a second a forehand dribbled the along the net before falling to the side.

“Sevastova has obviously given me problems in previous games,” Gauff said after the fact. “Even today she’s still a tough opponent. Today I just won. She can mix things up really well, which you don’t often see on the women’s tour. really embarrassing. But what I adjusted today was just to focus more on myself and not on what she does on her end of the pitch. I think in the past I have given too much thought to this it can do. Sometimes your opponent is better off playing the ball. “

Gauff will then face qualifier Anastasia Potapova in a rematch of their stellar 2019 US Open first round, won by Gauff 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.

Giorgi upsets Mertens; Konta and Pegula advance to the second round

Olympics quarter-finalist Camila Giorgi continued her scintillating form in Tokyo with a 6-3, 7-5 victory over No.9 seed Elise Mertens.

The Italian hadn’t won a set against Mertens in two previous encounters, but was supreme in serve as she claimed her third Top 20 win of the year. Giorgi’s five aces and 69% of first serve points earned were pretty impressive, but the world No.71 was hooked at key moments as well.

At 1-1 in the first set, she faced a triple breaking point to fall behind early, but managed to get out of the mess and instead capture Mertens’ key serve break in the very next one. match.

In the second set, Giorgi pulled off a titanic six-point hold, saving four break points, to tie it at 4-4. Mertens, who was beset by a total of seven double faults, committed one to lose serve in the next game – and, after Giorgi did not serve the game, another fell behind 5-6. This time around, Giorgi was right, sealing the victory with a rocket-winning backhand right down the line.

Johanna Konta is arguably even more fortunate with Covid-19 than Gauff recently. The Briton was at the top during the turf season, having won her first title in four years at Nottingham – but was forced to leave Wimbledon after being named as close contact of a positive case and then from the Tokyo Olympics after have tested positive themselves.

But Konta’s return to action saw her face off against Zhang Shuai, whom she had not only beaten in the Nottingham final, but in five previous consecutive games dating back to 2013. Here, Zhang was also embarrassed by an injury to her left leg that forced her to retire as a Konta. leads 4-6, 5-2.

Konta, quarter-finalist here in 2016, will next face No.3 seed Elina Svitolina.

Australian Open quarter-finalist Jessica Pegula, who came from a set to defeat Anett Kontaveit 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 in one hour and 57 minutes, also moved on.

Gauff takes first win over Sevastova on 4th down: Montreal highlights

2021 Montreal

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