Monica Niculescu took to the court at her home event for her second round encounter against Polona Hercog. The pair were tied 1-1 in the head-to-head record with Niculescu coming up tops in Bucharest in a tight three-set contest a couple of years ago. Hercog would want to overturn that result this time while the Romanian looked to best her semifinal run last year.
And that is what the Slovenian did. The 84th ranked Hercog handled the Romanian’s unorthodox play well as she edged out the first set 6-4. The fifth seed struggled to hold serve in the second set allowing Hercog to eventually seal a 6-4, 6-3 straight sets victory.
Hercog edges out a tight set
Hercog got off to a slow start surrendering the opening game to Niculescu. However, the Slovenian regrouped and found a way to handle the Romanian’s slices, breaking back for 2-2. Niculescu started to look vulnerable with Hercog looking to be aggressive. The Romanian’s serve was tested in the sixth game and on the second attempt, the Slovenian converted the break point to take a 4-2 lead.
Both women were getting into the groove exchanging rallies and Niculescu was mixing it up with a variety of shots. The Romanian came out on top in their rallies and immediately broke back for 3-4. And she got the match back on level terms despite hitting a couple of double faults.
The fifth seed did have an opportunity to take the lead but Hercog hung on to edge in front on serve once more. However, Niculescu who had to hold to stay in the set buckled under pressure and the Slovenian wrapped up the set with a forehand winner.
Niculescu tries to fight back but struggles despite home support
It wasn’t going well for the Romanian who went down 0-2 at the start of the second set. However, she got herself a brief lifeline when she got the break back for 1-2. Hercog was getting herself chances again and she took the lead once more as Niculescu struggled to hold serve.
Neither player looked settled as the breaks continued, this time, going the way of the Romanian who reduced the gap to 2-3. With the crowd firmly behind her, Niculescu finally held serve for the first time to level for 3-3.
However, she was in trouble yet again facing a triple break point in the eighth game. And there was not much the Romanian could do as Hercog capitalized with aplomb for a 5-3 lead. With the match on her racket, the Slovenian got the job done with ease completing a straight-sets victory over the fifth seed.
It wasn’t the best serving from either player but Niculescu struggled to win more points on her serve winning just 42 percent of first serves. Her second serve was also asking to be attacked as she won just 38 percent of them. In contrast, Hercog posted slightly better numbers winning 58 percent of first serves and half of second serves.
The Slovenian also had a better break point conversion rate at 75 percent which eventually won her the match.