Minnen upsets Yastremska, as main draw gets underway

World No. 110 Greet Minnen of Belgium headlined Monday’s first-round action at the Upper Austria Ladies Linz, stunning No. 3 seed Dayana Yastremska from the Ukraine, 6-4, 6-3.

"It's one of my biggest wins of the year," Minnen said after the match. "It wasn't expected because I haven't been playing well the last few weeks, since the coronavirus stopped the season. When we resumed it was pretty rough for me and I didn't win a lot of matches. I'm just happy I found my game again, and I'm winning matches."

The 23-year-old from Turnhout capitalized on six of her 10 break-point chances to secure victory in one hour and 17 minutes.

"I knew from the start that she would be a player who likes to dictate the game. She plays very aggressive. In the first few games, she didn't have a very good start, but then she served better and that helped her come back in the first set. I tried to keep my cool and keep playing aggressively myself. I think I did that pretty well."

Minnen, a winner of eight trophies on the ITF Pro Circuit, has competed in the main draw of the Australian Open, US Open as well as at Roland Garros for the first time in her career this year. She also seems to feel comfortable on Centre Court of the Linz Tips-Arena.

"I like these courts. The Hawkeye Live is pretty fun, and I also like Austria in general.”

In search of her first WTA quarterfinal of the season, Minnen will next play either French qualifier Harmony Tan or an in-form Barbora Krejcikova from the Czech Republic, who enjoyed a Grand Slam breakthrough last month in Paris, reaching the fourth round.

Alexandrova advances

Earlier in the day, Ekaterina Alexandrova defeated Katerina Siniakova from the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-4. The No. 4 seed of Russia outpointed her opponent 73-62 to advance after one hour and 19 minutes. Alexandrova will next take on compatriot Varvara Gracheva, who beat Ukrainian lucky loser Katarina Zavatska 6-4, 7-5.

Aliaksandra Sasnovich from Belarus knocked out No. 8 seeded US-American Bernarda Pera 6-3, 6-1 in one hour and 19 minutes to face the winner of the battle of the qualifiers between Croatia’s Jana Fett and Tereza Martincova of the Czech Republic.

Sabalenka leads title charge

Top seed Aryna Sabalenka will step into action on Tuesday. Fresh off her second triumph on the WTA Tour this season at the Ostrava Open three weeks ago, the World No. 11 from Belarus will open her title bid against Italian Jasmine Paolini.

“There is no pressure, as I will just focus on my game,” Sabalenka said ahead of her first match in Linz. “After Ostrava I went home and had a few days off. I did some photo shootings with my sister, spent time with the family and then back to practice to get prepared for Linz.”

The 22-year-old Minsk native added that she has worked a lot on the variety of her shots. “It’s working very well right now. I am also proud that I can handle all the emotions I am going through and that I have been able to compete at high level this season. There are always things to improve but I will give my best this week. I am ready.”