Bencic, Mertens Dominate First-Round Opponents At Mallorca Open

Belinda Bencic (photo: WTA Mallorca Open)

MALLORCA, June 17, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)

The fourth edition of the WTA International Mallorca Open began with six main-draw, first-round matches featuring No. 3 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland and No. 4 Elise Mertens of Belgium, the highest seeds seeing action, on the pristine Pista Central grass Monday.

The 13th-ranked Bencic, making her tournament debut, beat No. 64 Rebecca Peterson of Sweden, 7-5, 6-4, under hot (28º Celsius) and sunny skies. Bencic won 74 percent (32 of 43) of her first-serve points, saved four break points and broke Peterson five times during the one hour and 49 minute match. She advanced on her third match-point opportunity, and next will face either 52nd-ranked Zhang Shuai of China or No. 356 qualifier Shelby Rogers of the United States.

Mertens, ranked 21st, easily defeated 71st-ranked wild card Andrea Petkovic of Germany, 6-2, 6-2, in the evening’s featured match. It was their first head-to-head meeting and Mertens dominated the 69-minute match, losing just 20 points on her serve while breaking Petkovic five times. Mertens, the Belgian No. 1 who came in trying to improve upon her previous two finishes – second round in 2016 and first round in 2017 – will face either 44th-ranked Zheng Saisai or 115th-ranked wild card Samantha Stosur of Australia in the second round.

Main draw play began with No. 47 Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia defeating No. 53 Monica Puig of Puerto Rico, 6-4, 7-5, for her third career win over the 2016 Olympic gold medalist. Tomljanovic hit 10 aces and won on her fifth match-point opportunity. Next, she will face either No. 2 seed Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia or 123rd-ranked qualifier Varvara Lepchenko of the United States.

Soon after, the first upset of the tournament came as No. 8 seed Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic, ranked 38th, lost to No. 57 Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. In the second round, the Belgian will oppose No. 58 Wang Yafan of China, who beat No. 358 Anna-Lena Friedsam of Germany, 7-5, 6-3.

Also, No. 7 seed Sofia Kenin of the United States beat Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium, 6-2, 6-3. It was the 30th-ranked Kenin’s second win of the season against No. 80 Flipkens after beating her in the quarterfinals at Hobart in January. In the second round, she will face either No. 5 seed Amanda Anisimova of the United States or 143rd-ranked qualifier Tereza Martincova from the Czech Republic.

Sharapova returns to WTA tour on Tuesday

Maria Sharapova at Players’ Party at Folies Beach Club in Magaluf (Photo: Manuel Queimadelos)

When 85th-ranked wild card Maria Sharapova of Russia faces Viktoria Kuzmova on Tuesday, it will be just her 10th match of the year in her fourth tournament. Sharapova, who brings a 6-3 win-loss record into her match against the No. 46 Kuzmova from Slovakia, hasn’t played since the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy event in Russia back in January due to a shoulder injury that required surgery.

“When you go out in a tournament, anything can happen,” Sharapova said during an interview session on Sunday. “You want to go out on the court and you want to show the type of tennis you think you can produce. I certainly have expectations for myself … and I enjoy getting better every day.

“Even though the injures are every frustrating … but then the next day, you start feeling better. The next day, you get better and you get a little more optimistic. A few months later, even though it’s a long process, here you are and you’re excited to compete again.

“I think everyone has their own trajectory and their own path … with all the things I have the opportunity to do in my life, I still get so much thrill (from tennis).

“I’ve learned over the course of my career that it doesn’t always come to you as quickly as you wanted, but when it does, it’s incredibly rewarding.”

Around the Mallorca Open

• Advancing to the main draw after winning their final-round qualifying matches on Monday were: Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain, Varvara Lepchenko of the United States, Kaja Juvan of Serbia, Ysaline Bonaventure of Belgium, Shelby Rogers of the United States and Tereza Martincova from the Czech Republic. Each will be in action on Tuesday.

• The order of play on “Super Tuesday” features three former No. 1 players – No. 1 seed Angelique Kerber of Germany, who plays 118th-ranked qualifier Ysaline Bonaventure of Belgium not before 6:30 p.m. in the evening’s featured match on Pista Central; No. 41 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, who takes on Nature Valley Open champion and sixth seed Caroline Garcia of France, not before 2 p.m. on Pista Central; and wild card Maria Sharapova of Russia, who faces No. 46 Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia, not before 4:30 p.m. on Pista Central.

• No. 2 seed Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia and No. 5 seed Amanda Anisimova of the United States will play their first-round matches on Tuesday. The 12th-ranked Sevastova leads off play on Pista Central against American qualifier Varvara Lepchenko at 11 a.m., while the 27th-ranked Anisimova will oppose qualifier Tereza Martincova of the Czech Republic on Pista 1. Also, Libema Open winner Alison Riske of the United States will play 132nd-ranked wild card Paula Badosa of Spain on Pista 1.

• At age 17, No. 5 seed Amanda Anisimova of the United States is the youngest main draw competitor while Samantha Stosur, 35, from Australia is the oldest.