Between handshakes (or lack thereof), rain delays in Monte Carlo and high-end drama in Sochi, Stuttgart qualifying continued to deliver on tennis’ dramatic weekend. Sunday brought up surprises and stories, while two Top 5 players hit Centre Court under the roof of the Porsche Arena.
Doors opened early again for the second day of qualifying at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix and on-paper favorites fell by the wayside on more than one occasion. Alexa Glatch and Kateryna Bondarenko busted the pre-tournament bracket when they both took out seeded opponents in Ana Konjuh and Katerina Siniakova, respectively.
Much like on the previous day, Bondarenko proved to be too solid for her younger opponent. Siniakova is one of several promising young Czechs but she put on a wavering display — both mentally and in actual tennis. The 18-year-old was in a right old mood as early as the third game of the match, and after losing her early break advantage, she never seemed to refocus for a sustained amount of time. While her talent and shot-making abilities shone through occasionally, today’s loss to a steady player like the Ukrainian showed that Siniakova still has a ways to go.
Elsewhere, veteran Italian Alberta Brianti took out Polish No. 8 seed Magda Linette after being at the receiving end of a bagel in the first set. After nearly three hours, the Italian fought through to win two very close final sets, 0-6, 7-6(4), 7-5, to set up a meeting with Bethanie Mattek-Sands. The American withstood a late charge by German Anna-Lena Friedsam after being in control for the majority of the encounter to defeat her younger opponent for the second time in Stuttgart, 6-2, 7-6(4).
After speeding through her first round match, Petra Martic found herself in a much tougher spot today facing Sesil Karatantcheva. Throughout the majority of the first two sets, it was a very evenly-matched encounter, with the Croatian being very successful behind her first serve. Although Karatantcheva’s liable second serve got her in trouble occasionally, she managed to take advantage of a lapse in her opponent’s concentration to nab the second set and force a decider. In the final set, however, the Bulgarian struggled with the 24-year-old World No. 175, who found her rhythm again when it mattered to apply pressure with her forehand and mix it up on her backhand side. Martic eventually took the match, 7-6(2), 4-6, 6-2 and will face Yuliya Beygelzimer tomorrow after the Ukrainian took out No. 8 seed Denisa Allertova in three sets. After a topsy-turvy opener, Beygelzimer was successful in moving the tall Czech across the court, often exposing the World No. 93’s lateral movement and average defense to win 5-7, 6-4, 6-1.
The final two matches of the day were short encounters in comparison to the early action. After several good weeks on U.S. soil, Russian Evgeniya Rodina carried her form across the Atlantic and made light work of German wildcard Katharina Hobgarski, 6-3, 6-0. The only seeded player left in the qualifying draw will be out on court with compatriot Marina Melnikova tomorrow. Melnikova benefitted from a thigh injury related retirement of No. 2 seed Kirsten Flipkens a mere three games into the match, and the first main draw WTA appearance of her career will be on the line tomorrow should she win.
Or maybe even if she doesn’t? Due to Jelena Jankovic’s withdrawal from the main draw, one of the four women who end up on the wrong side of the scoreboard tomorrow is going to be a very lucky loser.
Elsewhere in the Porsche Arena, Caroline Wozniacki took the main court to hit with a couple of youngsters. Wozniacki has recently hired Arantxa Sanchez Vicario to work with her, at least during the clay season, and Stuttgart will serve as a first standpoint for the Spaniard to see what shape the World No. 5 is in.
A couple of hours later, Maria Sharapova arrived on Stuttgart’s centre court. After pulling out of Fed Cup, there was some doubt with regards to Russian’s participation in the tournament but the World No. 2 left a solid impression during her first practice. The Porsche brand ambassador didn’t seem to be wearing any strapping on her leg while working on her slides on the red clay and her movement looked all right from what one could tell — in practice, of course.
Since the reigning French Open champion turned 28 today, there was a little birthday celebration on court after her practice had finished — featuring flowers and a giant birthday card, of course.
While Sharapova won’t be stepping into action before Thursday, tomorrow features a packed program: the final four qualifying matches are on tap, along with the doubles wildcard team of Simona Halep and Belina Bencic; the Berenberg Classic exhibition with Thomas Muster and André Agassi, followed by the Players’ Presentation and the first main draw match — an all-German affair between Mona Barthel and wildcard Carina Witthoeft.