WTA St. Petersburg: Anastasia Potapova claims first WTA win of her career, ousts Tatjana Maria in straight sets
Anastasia Potapova in action during her first-ever WTA win | Photo: St. Petersburg Ladies' Trophy

Anastasia Potapova, in just her second tour-level main draw match, claimed her first-ever WTA win after defeating the experienced Tatjana Maria 6-2, 6-4 for a spot in the second round at the St. Petersburg Ladies’ Trophy. Putting in a high-quality performance and peaking during the crucial moments, the 16-year-old was just too good for the world number 49 and ultimately closed out the win having fended off ⅞ break points throughout the encounter.

Potapova overcomes early nerves, takes the thrilling first set

Entering the Sibur Arena, nerves were definitely present for the teenage 16-year-old Potapova, who is participating in just her second WTA main draw event. Maria, the more experienced player on the court, was dictating play early on with her fantastic one-handed backhand, coupled alongside her wonderful solid serves. Potapova struggled to find the rhythm on her groundstrokes, often misfiring during the early stages.

Coincidentally, Potapova’s last and only tour-level main draw match also came against Maria back at the 2017 Wimbledon, where the Russian came through the qualifying rounds only to injure her left knee and being forced to retire eventually. The first tricky game for both players came in the third one, and unexpectedly, it was the former junior world number one who prevailed in the marathon game having fended off three nervy break points with the help of Maria’s errors.

A slight misfocus saw Maria completely crumble on her forehands, which allowed Potapova to capitalize on the loophole and earn the first break in the match. Swinging freely without pressure, it was the Russian who was firing on all cylinders as she easily consolidated the break, looking on course to cause the huge upset.

It was a high-quality encounter with countless thrilling rallies and Potapova opened a commanding 5-2 lead in a blink of an eye. Despite facing some problems while trying to close out the set, Potapova surprisingly dictated play with her solid and consistent groundstrokes, eventually fending off multiple break points to claim the first set 6-2 after just 42 minutes of play.

Anastasia Potapova celebrates winning a point during the match | Photo: WTA St. Petersburg Ladies' Trophy
Anastasia Potapova celebrates winning a point during the match | Photo: WTA St. Petersburg Ladies' Trophy

Potapova seals the impressive victory

Winning the first eight of nine points in the second set, all the momentum was going in Potapova’s way and Maria’s lackluster tennis certainly did not aid her efforts in producing a comeback. Her chances of triumphing were diminishing as each point progresses, but a turning point of the match seemed incoming in the third game. A spectacular point which saw Potapova getting the upper hand earned her break point, but the Russian youngster failed to convert and paved the way for Maria to stop the rout of losing seven straight games.

Overwhelming unforced errors were produced from Potapova, and all of a sudden, Maria was back level. Being just 16-year-old, the Russian possessed great mental strength and was able to overcome her previous disappointment to regain the lead. This time, she put in more consistent games, saving another break point to consolidate for a formidable 4-2 lead.

After series of consecutive service holds, Potapova faced the toughest challenge of the evening -- closing out the match. With Maria sending a forehand long, the Russian concluded the statement victory after just 88 minutes of play, falling to the ground in joy after setting up a blockbuster second-round meeting with new world number one and Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki.