Wimbledon: 2016 semifinalist Elena Vesnina survives tough opening round

Elena Vesnina survived an inspired opponent in Anna Blinkova as she prevailed in three sets to progress to the second round of the Wimbledon Championships, edging closer to defending her semifinal points from last year.

Vesnina takes the opening set

Despite hitting a double fault to start the match, Blinkova managed to have the best possible start as she easily held her serve to 15 without showing any early jitters. With some powerful serves, Vesnina followed suit as she won her first game of the day, keeping the scores level at 1-1. An ace at 30-30 saw Blinkova earn game point as she looked on course to secure yet another service hold, but this time it was not meant to be as her experienced opponent made the first breakthrough in the match, breaking serve to take the early lead.

However, the Indian Wells champion was unable to hold onto her lead as she wasted a 40-15 lead in her next service game, allowing Blinkova to get back level after hitting two straight double faults. After an exchange of service holds, it was Vesnina who once again made the breakthrough as she broke serve from being 30-0 down and relying on her younger opponent’s unforced errors to regain the lead. This time, Vesnina was able to consolidate the break as she fended off three break points in the marathon eighth game to place herself just one game away from winning the first set. The veteran then withstood all the pressure, eventually serving out the set 6-4 after 45 minutes of powerful tennis.

Blinkova produces incredible performance

Determined to send the match into a deciding set, Blinkova made the perfect start to the second set as she comfortably held serve with some excellent offensive tennis. Vesnina showed that she could do better when she managed to hold her serve to love, levelling the scores. Both Russians looked untouchable on serve early in the set, with a break point looking difficult to earn. Blinkova almost made the first breakthrough when she got to deuce in Vesnina’s service game, but her experienced compatriot stood firm and narrowly held her serve. However, Blinkova played some inspired tennis and finally managed to earn the first break of serve in the second set, taking the lead and getting the golden opportunity to serve out the set.

Nevertheless, pressure overwhelmed the youngster as Vesnina broke straight back, with a straight set win still looking possible. The veteran showed some great mental strength to hold serve and extend the set into an 11th game despite some impressive tennis by her compatriot. Serving to stay in the set for a second consecutive time at 5-6, Vesnina lost her focus and lost her service game for the third time in the match, allowing the Wimbledon debutant to steal the second set 7-5 after 41 minutes of play.

Anna Blinkova in action | Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images Europe
Anna Blinkova in action | Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images Europe

Vesnina strolls to the victory

Blinkova made a shaky start to the final set as she hit a crucial double fault at 30-30, resulting in an eventual break for Vesnina, who was able to get the early lead. The momentum seemed to have shifted once more as the defending semifinalist consolidated the break to open up a 2-0 lead, with the win looking to be within her reach. Blinkova finally got herself onto the scoreboard in the decider as she saved a break point with an ace to lessen the deficit.

However, Vesnina was just too good as she rattled off eight of the next ten points to earn the double break lead, edging closer to the win. Saving a break point along the way, Vesnina consolidated the break to be just one game away from getting the confidence-boosting victory. After Blinkova managed to snatch a consolation game, Vesnina was able to successfully serve out the match as she closed out the win with a smash winner, sealing the victory after 2 hours and 5 minutes of play.