Ready, Play! Upper Austria Ladies Linz Qualifying kicks off

In an action-packed opening day of the qualifying at the Upper Austria Ladies Linz, former World No. 12 Sabine Lisicki booked her spot in the second round of the WTA International Event, while top seed Oceane Dodin of France and No. 2 seed Irina Bara from Romania kicked off their respective campaigns with solid wins.

Playing her first tournament since early September at the Prague Open, 2013 Wimbledon finalist Lisicki defeated No. 12 seed Bibiane Schoofs from the Netherlands 7-5, 6-3 on Saturday afternoon at the Linz Tips-Arena. The World No. 689 from Germany sent down four aces and won 70 per cent of her first-service points to advance after one hour and 33 minutes.

“It’s so nice to be back on the court, as it has been such a difficult year,” said Lisicki, who is coached by her father Richard again. “For me last season was also difficult, as I had mononucleosis and I was out for a year.”

Asked about today’s match, the 31-year-old wild card entry replied: “I lost to her last year. I’m happy that I won. I’m not happy about my serve, as I was a bit inconsistent, but I won the key points and the match.

“I’m still at the beginning. I have to start from scratch. Before the tournament in Prague, I didn’t have a ranking. I just went there to see how I’m doing, and I won three out of four matches, which was nice. For me this is also a place to see where I am standing, to keep working on the things that didn’t work and getting ready hopefully for Australia.”

Lisicki will meet No. 4 seed Tereza Martincova from the Czech Republic for a spot in the main draw. The 26-year-old Prague native defeated Jodie Burrage of Great Britain 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.

Top two seeds advance

Earlier in the day, Dodin cruised past Reka-Luca Jani of Hungary 6-0, 6-0. The World No. 114 was in total control of the encounter, didn’t face a break point and converted six of her own seven break-point chances to advance in only 57 minutes. Dodin will next take on No. 11 seed Laura Ioana Paar from Romania, who benefited from the retirement of Rebecca Sramkova of Slovakia leading 5-7, 7-5, 2-0.

Bara had to go the distance in her first-round match against Katharina Gerlach. The World No. 116 rallied from a set down to overcome the German 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 after two hours and 35 minutes. Up next for Bara will be Jana Fett of Croatia, who eased past No. 10 seed Hibi Mayo of Japan 6-2, 6-3.

Konjuh returns to the main tour

In other action, Katarina Zavatska fought past Croatian wild card entry Ana Konjuh, who appeared in her first WTA Tour match since Budapest in February last year, 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-2. The No. 3 seed from the Ukraine outpointed her opponent 113-103 to secure victory in two hours and 39 minutes.

“It was a tough match today. I started well the first set and the second set, but I missed my chances, and she took hers,” said Konjuh. “Overall, I know I can play at a higher level, but I’m happy to be back and have a chance to compete. I want to thank the tournament director for the wild card and for the opportunity to actually play tennis. Hopefully, this is just the start and I’ll have many more matches in the future. All the best and stay safe.”

Zavatska will next take on her compatriot and No. 7 seed Anhelina Kalinina, who edged out Isabella Shinikova from Bulgaria 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. In the final two matches of the day, No. 5 seed Stefanie Voegele from Switzerland defeated 20-year-old local wild card Veronika Bokor 6-3, 6-1 and No. 9 seed Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove from the Netherlands outlasted Norwegian Ulrikke Eikeri 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 in almost two and half hours of play.