Elena Vesnina had a surprise opponent today — she was supposed to face her nemesis Peng Shuai in the opening round of the 2018 Apia International Sydney — but instead she faced the lucky-loser and world number 86 Lara Arruabarrena on Court 1 at 5 pm, putting in a world-class performance to oust the Spaniard 6-2, 6-2 after just barely an hour of play, looking in top-form throughout the match.
Winning 82 percent of first-service points, Vesnina was putting up a clinical serving display having fended off the only break point she faced throughout the match while losing just six points behind her powerful first serves. Vesnina will now face either eighth seed Anastasija Sevastova or former top-four player Dominika Cibulkova in the second round for a place in the last eight.
Vesnina powers through one-sided first set
The Russian came out of the blocks firing, looking extremely solid on her groundstrokes as she grabbed the opening break of service within a blink of an eye. Having withdrawn from the Brisbane International a week before, Vesnina removed any injury doubts as she was controlling the proceedings early on. Arruabarrena finally got herself onto the scoreboard with a solid service hold, but the world number 18 was just simply flawless on her serve.
Merciless returns and impressive shot-making skills saw Vesnina stroll to yet another service break, with Arruabarrena finding no answers in return to the Russian’s top-notch play. Ultimately, the Indian Wells champion lost just two points on serve through the entirety of the first set, sealing it 6-2 after just a mere 28 minutes.
Vesnina grabs the confidence-boosting victory
In fact, this was Arruabarrena’s second match of the day having lost in the qualifying rounds earlier in the morning — and it was her second consecutive straight-sets loss as well. Being unable to find her rhythm, the Spaniard had a drastic improvement in the second set, taking a 2-1 lead in the second set with some inspired play.
Prevailing in her longest service game of the day, Vesnina rode on her momentum and claimed the first break in the second set, hitting winner after winner to lead by a set and a break. Another lengthy deuce game saw the Russian consolidating the break for a commanding 4-2 advantage while Arruabarrena totally lost the plot, allowing Vesnina to earn the golden opportunity to serve out the match.
Saving her first break point of the match in the last game, Vesnina had a nervy service hold to seal the impressive victory, getting off to a perfect start in 2018 after just an hour and seven minutes of play. This win is certainly confidence-boosting for the Russian, who has not reached a WTA quarterfinal since her triumph in Indian Wells last year.