It was a cruel draw at the Sydney International considering the packed draw, with all direct entries being ranked number 36 and below in the rankings. In this match-up between defending champion and fifth-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova and Irina-Camelia Begu, the Russian unexpectedly trails in the head-to-head record as Begu takes a 2-1 lead entering this match. However, their last match was played in 2012 when Kuznetsova was suffering some injury problems which kept her hindered and unable to play her best tennis, therefore the head-to-head record would not be able to be much of a help in this match as Kuznetsova is now a much more refreshed player this time round. Both players started the year at the Brisbane International where Kuznetsova reached the quarterfinals and Begu falling at the first hurdle.
The Russian won the match in straight sets, almost losing a huge lead in the second set but managed to regain the momentum in time to successfully serve out the match.
Kuznetsova runs away with the first set
The Russian had the perfect start to the match after she held her serve to love and broke serve on her second break point opportunity to have the early advantage to start the match with. Kuznetsova then managed to affirm her lead in the scoreboard as she consolidated the break of serve with a hold of service of her own. Begu finally got herself onto the scoreboard after a tough service hold in which Kuznetsova threatened to break again but failed to earn a break point opportunity. The Russian held her nerves to hold her serve in the following game and regain her three-game advantage. She further extended her lead after Begu’s serve once again disappointed her as Kuznetsova broke for the second time to have the chance to serve out the first set. The defending champion did just so, serving out the first set in a nervy game which saw Begu get to deuce.
Inspired Begu tries to fight back
The start of the second set saw Kuznetsova edge closer to a straight-sets victory as she broke immediately in the opening game, which gave her the lead by a set and a break. Begu’s unforced errors continued to come as she was broken once more in her next service game to gift Kuznetsova a double break lead. The Russian further affirmed her lead as she consolidated the break with a comfortable hold to love to earn a 4-0 lead and look to be running away with the match. It looked like Begu would give up the match easily, but much to the surprise of everyone, she reeled off four games in a row to go back level, breaking serve twice after earning her first break points in the match. It now looks like that with the momentum running in her, Begu would win her sixth game in a row to level the match. However, Kuznetsova proved everyone wrong and regained her lead when she finally won the game needed to put her one game away from victory by breaking Begu’s serve with some deep returns that were able to consistently trouble her. With this break, the Russian had the chance to serve out the match. Kuznetsova did just so, comfortably serving out the match to 15 to earn a win to start her title defense.
Begu was especially erratic today, having hit 26 unforced errors throughout the match, but also had 19 winners which mostly came in the second set. Kuznetsova had a positive ratio as she hit 13 winners and 7 unforced errors in the whole match. The first set was particularly impressive from the Russian as she hit 8 winners and only 1 single unforced error, which was an excellent performance. The 2-time grand slam champion was clinical on her serve, winning 62 percent of first serve points and 69 percent of second serve points. Whereas, the Romanian was disappointing in her service games as she won only 53 percent of first service points and 37 percent of second service points.
Next up for Kuznetsova
The Russian would now face either home favourite Samantha Stosur or compatriot Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the second round, with both being very tough opponents. Kuznetsova holds a 5-1 head-to-head record against Pavlyuchenkova and a 5-4 head-to-head record against Stosur, and it would be a difficult task if she wants to get past them easily.