Mertens masters Kalinina to start Linz campaign

The first round at the Upper Austria Ladies Linz concluded on Wednesday headlined by No. 2 seed Elise Mertens, who opened her title bid with a hard-fought 2-6, 6-1, 6-2 win over Ukrainian qualifier Anhelina Kalinina.

After a slow start, the World No. 21 started to find her rhythm to finally celebrate an entertaining comeback victory on Centre Court of the TipsArena Linz. Mertens sent down seven aces and won 73 per cent of her first-service points to prevail after two hours and five minutes.

"It may not have been the best match I played," Mertens said. "It was a bit of a struggle in the first set. She played pretty aggressively and didn't make a lot of mistakes. I tried to change in the second and third sets where I was stepping into the court more. I was mentally prepared for a battle, and it was certainly a battle until the end."

The 24-year-old from Belgium will next take on Russian veteran and former World No. 2 Vera Zvonareva, who entered the main draw with a wild card. It will be the pair’s first meeting.

“I have to look up how she plays,” Mertens said of her upcoming opponent. “She is a very experienced player with a lot of matches under her belt. I’m really excited for the match tomorrow.”

Podoroska powers past Begu

In her first match since her breakout run at Roland Garros, No. 6 seed Nadia Podoroska defeated Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania 6-4, 6-4. The 23-year-old from Argentina won 73 per cent of the total points played to advance in one hour and 43 minutes.

“I’m still just trying to be focused on each match, and I’m trying to learn about this tournament, which is new for me, and try to improve my game,” Podoroska said. “The courts here are fast but the bounce feels quite slow, which I like. Playing indoors, you don’t deal with bad weather, there’s no sun, there’s no wind, so that’s great for me. It cleans up my tennis.”

At this year’s French Open, then ranked World No. 131 from Rosario, won eight matches in a row and stunned World No. 5 Elina Svitolina to become the first qualifier in tournament history to reach the semi-finals. 

“This year I learned a lot about myself, about my game. It was a very good year for me. I improved in too many things of my game, which was the most important thing,” Podoroska reflected in her post-match press conference.

“After Roland Garros, I went back to Alicante. I live there, I train in Spain. I basically rested for one week, and then I started training again. So, my life didn’t change too much; I’m playing another tournament, so my life is quite the same,” she said and will next challenge Camila Giorgi from Italy.

Kudermetova dismantles Haas

Earlier in the day, No. 5 seed Veronika Kudermetova cruised past Austrian wild card entry Barbara Haas 6-0, 6-0 in only 53 minutes. The 23-year-old Russian saved both two break points she faced and converted six of her own 12 break-point chances to earn her second win over Haas in as many meetings with the World No. 148.

Haas was obviously disappointed afterwards and described her experience as a „bad day at the office”. Kudermetova will next face Arantxa Rus from the Netherlands.

Krejcikova, Sasnovich book quarterfinal berths

In second-round action, Barbora Krejcikova from the Czech Republic rallied past Greet Minnen from Belgium 5-7, 7-6(7), 6-4 in almost three hours of play to meet Aliaksandra Sasnovich from Belarus in the quarterfinals. The 26-year-old Minsk native also came back from a set down to outlast Croatian qualifier Jana Fett 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 in two hours and 11 minutes.

In the final match of the day, Ekaterina Alexandrova emerged victorious from the all-Russian affair with Varvara Gracheva, 7-5, 6-1 after 77 minutes.

“It was a tough match, especially in the first set. I was luckier at 5-5 when I broke her and held my serve in the following. It gave me confidence and probably made the difference in the end,” Alexandrova said during her post-match on-court interview and pointed out that she enjoys everything about her stay in Linz: “I love the city,” she stated with a smile.