Quiet, Shy Schmiedlova Turns Outgoing In Istanbul Victory

WASHINGTON, September 8, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Anna Karolina Schmiedlova describes herself in her WTA biography as quiet and shy. On the court, however, it’s another matter, where she allows herself to be a bit more outgoing.

On Tuesday, the 25-year-old native of Kosice, Slovakia, came out of her shell and rallied for a 7-5, 1-6, 6-4 victory over 19-year-old rising star Kaja Juvan from Slovenia, the youngest player in the draw, as the first round of the TEB BNP Paribas Tennis Championships Istanbul got under way on the red clay at the Turkish Tennis Federation Tennis Center. It took five match points, but Schmiedlova got the job done in this battle of players who both are ranked outside of the Top 100.

Although the 182nd-ranked Schmiedlova struggled at times with scoring points consistently on both her first and second serves, she converted eight of 19 break-point opportunities against the 113th-ranked Juvan, who last week reached the second round of the US Open before losing to 14th seed Anett Kontaveit.

Afterwards, Schmiedlova commented on her victory with wtatennis.com. “I know my opponent, she’s very young and a very clever player, especially on clay,” she said. “I was just telling myself to be brave, to be aggressive and that I have to finish it myself. It’s difficult for me, because I’m a defensive player and I feel really good when I’m running.

“But I know that in WTA tournaments I have to be more aggressive, to change the direction of the ball down the line more. I’m happy with how I managed it at the end, because I lost that tough game when I was 5-3 up – but then, I found another strength to fight again.”

“It’s very difficult for me to find that bravery, but I think I found it today.”

Schmiedlova, who used a special ranking to receive direct entry into the main draw after missing much of the second half of the 2019 season due to a knee injury, arrived in Istanbul coming off of a quarterfinal finish in the recent Prague $125K where she won four of her five matches. With the start of Roland Garros just a couple of weeks away, Schmiedlova knows that getting a good win over a quality opponent is important. She’s had success on red clay before, winning Bucharest in 2015 and Bogotá in 2018.

After her singles win against Juvan, Schmiedlova teamed in doubles with Katarina Zavatska of Ukraine and beat Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine and Sharon Fichman from Canada, 6-3, 7-6 (4). They were inserted last minute into the 16-team draw as an alternate team.

Next in singles, Schmiedlova will face No. 106 Aliaksandra Sasnovich from Belarus in Thursday’s second round.

Around the TEB BNP Paribas Tennis Championships Istanbul

• No. 3 seed Polona Hercog of Slovenia, the 2018 Istanbul finalist, is one of three former finalists in this year’s draw along with 2016 champion Cagla Buyukakcay of Turkey and 2016 runner-up Danka Kovinic from Montenegro.

On Tuesday night, Hercog defeated 20-year-old Turkish wild card Berfu Cengiz, 6-2, 6-3, in one hour and 12 minutes. The 387th-ranked Cengiz was was making her WTA main draw debut.

• Coming in, No. 7 seed Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan won her only previous match against Belarusia’s Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the second round of the 2015 Wimbledon Championships. However, the 106th-ranked Sasnovich’s game has been on the rise since the resumption of the WTA Tour last month. She’s compiled an 8-3 record, which includes a win over World No. 18 Elise Mertens in Palermo and 12th-seeded Marketa Vondrousova last week at the US Open. The two opposed each other in the final Center Court match Tuesday night with Diyas looking for her first win since the Australian Open in January. What happened was pretty incredible.

From 6-3, 5-2 down, Sasnovich overcame a double break and a couple of match points during the second set to mount an epic comeback. She won nine straight games and pulled out a 3-6, 7-5, 6-1 win over Diyas in two hours and 23 minutes to advance with her ninth win of the season.

• No. 5 seed Heather Watson of Great Britain, ranked 54th, who had won two of three encounters against No. 82 Sara Sorribes Tormo from Spain, retired due to dizziness after 43 minutes. Sorribes Tormo was ahead 3-2 in the first set.

• Also advancing to the second round were: 94th-ranked Paula Badosa of Spain, who defeated No. 108 Katarina Zavatska of Ukraine, 6-1, 6-2; and No. 97 Jasmine Paolini of Italy, who beat 114th-ranked Stefanie Voegele from Switzerland, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3.

• Wild card Eugenie Bouchard of Canada, ranked 272nd, reached the main draw with a 6-4, 6-4 win over No. 148 Leonie Kung of Switzerland. Bouchard converted 20 of 26 second-serve point chances and saved both of the break points she faced from Kung. She’s currently second on the WTA Tour with a 54.6 second-serve points won efficiency. Bouchard is hoping to replicate or exceed her quarterfinal performance last month on clay at Prague.

• Also advancing to the main draw from qualifying were No. 248 Ellen Perez of Australia, No. 174 Olga Danilovic of Serbia, and No. 136 Tereza Martincova from the Czech Republic.

• Top seed in the 30-player singles draw is Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia, who at age 35 is the oldest player competing this week. The 34th-ranked Kuznetsova received a first-round bye and will await the winner of Wednesday’s first-round match between Bouchard and No. 133 Viktoriya Tomova of Bulgaria.

• There are 280 WTA rankings points at stake for the winner of the WTA International event plus $25,000 (USD) in prize money. The runner up will receive 180 WTA rankings points and $14,000 (USD).