The opening day of the Nurnberger Versicherungscup featured just three matches to start the tournament with, and Sorana Cirstea was the notable player who progressed to the second round after benefitting from a retirement of good friend and compatriot Monica Niculescu in the first match of the tournament. Cirstea will now face a dangerous left-handed player in Varvara Lepchenko, a former Top 20 player herself. Lepchenko defeated Evgeniya Rodina in a one-sided match which was concluded in straight sets in the first round.
Cirstea fends off tough challenge
One of the few blockbuster and must-watch matches of the draw saw two familiar foes fight against each other in the first round as the eighth seed Monica Niculescu was drawn to fight for a place in the second round against Sorana Cirstea. After a tight start to the match where both players were unable to find a breakthrough, it was the underdog who made the first break of the day as Cirstea took an early 3-1 lead to look on course to win the first set. Niculescu made an immediate reply as she troubled Cirstea with her sliced returns, breaking straight back to return level. However, Cirstea did not get affected by the loss of her service game as she maintained her composure to break back and regain the lead.
Despite some tough resistance, the former Top 25 player then opened up a 5-2 lead with some impressive offensive tennis to take control of the match as she consolidated the break this time to be just a game away from victory. It was at that moment when Niculescu started to make a huge comeback as she returned on serve all of a sudden, capitalizing on her fifth break point in the ninth game to lessen the deficit to just a mere one game. Looking to be very uncomfortable with a possible knee injury, Niculescu was broken to love while serving to stay in the match and Cirstea looked to be in full control of the match.
Niculescu retires due to an injury
After losing the opening game of the second set, Niculescu called a medical time-out and was eventually forced to retire from the match after just 68 minutes. It seemed like it was a serious knee injury as her movements were affected, but with Roland Garros coming up soon, her retirement could as well be a precautionary measure only. Nevertheless, everyone would definitely hope that it is not as serious as thought to be.
After reaching the final in Hobart at the start of the year, Niculescu has gone 1-9 in her next tournaments with her only win coming over, coincidentally, Cirstea back in March. It is a worrying stat for Niculescu, who has to start regaining some momentum, form, and fitness heading into the second Grand Slam of the year, which starts next week.