On Tuesday, the seeded players in Stuttgart got into action. While Carla Suarez Navarro was able to toughen out a difficult three-set win, 2014 finalist Ana Ivanovic fell at the hands of a familiar nemesis. Later at night, Ekaterina Makarova solved a potentially tricky opponent in American qualifier to close play on Tuesday.
“I think maybe another first round could have been better for me,” was how Ana Ivanovic opened Tuesday’s press conference, facing the media after suffering a third loss in two months to France’s Caroline Garcia. The Serb had previously drawn the shorter straw at Monterrey and Indian Wells on hard court.
“I really felt that this is the first match on clay and it was very hard. I just arrived from Fed Cup and I had one practice on clay. It’s very hard to just adjust. Honestly, I didn’t even adjust, you know I didn’t realize what’s going on,” Ivanovic said with a chuckle.
Both players traveled straight in from the international team competition, but it was the Frenchwoman — who suffered massive disappointment in failing to convert one of five match points against Lucie Safarova — who was able to better handle the switch from indoor hard courts to indoor clay.
“I played Charleston the week before Fed Cup,” the unseeded Garcia said. “So, it’s a little bit clay court, but it’s different. I know I can play on clay court well, so I just go for it and I like to slide anyway.”
The 21 year-old played her signature aggressive style, hitting 32 winners to 20 unforced errors and eeking out the last five points of the opening set — saving three set points — to take the tiebreak, 8-6. Garcia got the early break to start the second set, and though the Serb was able to return the favour for a short time, the Frenchwoman never relinquished her lead with the help of some great serving.
“I don’t know, sometimes there’s just a series like this,” Garcia said about her recent success against Ivanovic. “We just played once last year in the French Open, and this year we played three times in almost two months. I just keep my tactics against her, it’s working for the moment. So, I just do my best, play aggressive and it’s working well.”
As for Ivanovic, who felt she didn’t take the chances she created in the first set, it is back to the drawing board. The Serb had a fine start to the year with a run to the finals of Brisbane, but soon began struggling with results and injuries that are quickly eclipsing her season. At the very least, her foot has healed up, and she has been able to train properly for the past two weeks. Still, the World No. 6 knows there is a lot of work to be done.
“Well, even yesterday I spoke to my team and I really need to change the approach of how we work and what we’re going to do. I really feel I’m lacking some things on court, and I really want to address this in the next ten days before Madrid.”
The 27-year-old also said that she needed to figure out a manageable schedule in the run up to the Premier Mandatory so she comes in prepared but also rested.
All in all, Ivanovic uttered her signature refrain: “It’s a process.”
Make of that what you will.
For Garcia, it was a good start into the week in Stuttgart just 48 hours after what had been a very intense weekend in Fed Cup, as France bowed out to the Czech Republic in the semifinals.
“It was a difficult week and I played good matches, but I lost. I had so many occasions, so, it also gave me a lot of confidence because I played Safarova who is No. 13 in the world and then Petra, No. 4, and I played good matches. So, I know I can do it. Yes, I arrived here and I said, ‘Okay, let’s get a win’ and I didn’t lose two times in a row. So, I just said, ‘Come on, you can do it’ and I played my game and it worked well.”
Elsewhere, Carla Suarez Navarro survived a tough challenge by qualifier Evgeniya Rodina, who grabbed the second set tiebreak to level the match. The Spaniard was serving for it, but her Russian opponent kicked into gear with a menacing backhand to force a third set. It wasn’t until the World No. 10 broke Rodina for the match that the ever-swinging pendulum of momentum finally settled in favor of the Miami finalist.
“She played aggressive and it was tough for me,” Suarez Navarro said after the match. “In the final set, I tried to play more aggressive and winning points with my serve. That’s important, not to play long points. Well, the most important is that I won and I’m happy to be in the next round.”
The final singles match of the day featured No. 6 seed Ekaterina Makarova, who got by one of the more dangerous qualifiers in Bethanie Mattek-Sands. The match was a fun affair, with lots of winners and two feisty competitors towards the end. The Russian served for the match in the second set, but Mattek-Sands was able to stretch proceedings just long enough for a tiebreak. The Russian ultimately sealed the match with a great forehand inside out winner.
The Russian’s opponent in the next round will be main draw debutante and countrywoman Marina Melnikova, who continued a career week by taking out qualifier Petra Martic. Madison Brengle took out Italy’s Alberta Brianti and will be Petra Kvitova’s opponent in her first WTA match in almost two months.
Tomorrow’s schedule is once again looking packed, with the three German Fed Cup teammates playing their first round matches, along with Agnieszka Radwanska taking on Sara Errani in Wednesday’s first match. The match between Garbiñe Muguruza and Simona Halep will close singles proceedings, while new doubles No. 1 Sania Mirza and partner Martina Hingis will wrap up the day on Centre Court.
What do you think causes Ivanovic’s problems with Garcia? Who is on your upset watch for tomorrow? Sound off in the comments!