The Auckland Open’s draw pitted Lucie Safarova against Denisa Allertova in a battle of the Czechs. The two have not met before in their careers, but Safarova came into the match as the favourite as she is the higher-ranked player of both.
Nevertheless, it was bound to be a close match as Allertova has the ability to create upsets, and Safarova never looked like she was playing at her best in the whole of last year. A bacterial infection hospitalised her at the end of 2015, and kept her out of action during the whole of the Australian swing in 2016, which meant that she has nothing to defend in the first month of the year. However, she did not return to top form when she came back to tennis and soon fell out of the top 10. As a consequence of a poor season in singles, Safarova ended the year outside of the top 60.
Safarova looked like she was close to playing her best when she triumphed in just over an hour, losing just three games in a match which saw Allertova not being at her absolute best.
Safarova starts the first set on a positive note
As soon as the match started, Safarova came out firing as she produced some excellent down the line shots to earn her first break point opportunity in the match. Allertova saved it with her offensive tennis, and soon held her service game after a nervy start to the match.
Despite the 23 year-old’s serve being known for its speed, the 2015 Roland Garros runner-up made the first breakthrough early on, breaking serve in the third game to have the early advantage. With the advantage and momentum in her hands, Safarova never looked back from then on as she was clinical on her serve, losing only one single point on her second service.
Allertova was unable to go against Safarova’s solid groundstrokes, and was very uncomfortable playing as the more defensive player. The 29th year-old Czech then broke her younger compatriot’s service game once more to have a double break lead, and have the set in her sights. Serving to stay in the set at 1-5, Allertova’s serve still could not find its usual self as she crumbled to the pressure, hitting two double faults consecutively to lose the first set, and her sixth game in a row.
Safarova continues strolling
Starting the second set disappointingly with a double fault, and falling behind 0-30 in her service game, Safarova maintained her composure and did not let the scores affect her, which got her the crucial hold of service to start the second set with. With increased confidence after winning the first set, the world number seven in doubles was feeling more comfortable on the court, and started to play what seemed like her best tennis, something the fans have not seen in quite awhile.
She broke serve immediately in the next game to lead by a set and a break and have the match in her hands. Safarova’s break of serve was then followed by another service break, this time from Allertova, who converted on her first and only break point opportunity during the whole match.
The Czech who upset Angelique Kerber in Indian Wells last year then consolidated her sole break of service, which managed to bring her back level on the scorelines in the second set. Similar to the first set, Safarova then went on a roll from 2-2, winning four games in a row to seal the her first win of 2017 in one hour and three minutes.
The second set saw Safarova hitting eight aces and winning 85% of first service points, which played a major role in her win. Allertova’s serving performance was the disappointing one, as it was expected to be much more solid.
Safarova progresses to the second round
Safarova advances to the second round of the Auckland Open, with her potential opponent being good friend and doubles partner, Barbora Strycova, whom she won a bronze medal with in the women’s doubles category of the Rio Olympics.