(Reuters) – The top seeds at the Palermo Ladies Open had a day of mixed fortunes as Croatia’s Petra Martic advanced in straight sets, while second seed Marketa Vondrousova was ousted by Slovenian qualifier Kaja Juvan in the first round on Tuesday.
Martic beat rusty Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck 6-0 6-3 in her first match back on the tour in five months after the novel coronavorus pandemic suspended tennis worldwide, wrapping up the contest in 65 minutes with four breaks of serve.
The 29-year-old Croatian looked at home on the clay and started the match aggressively, needing only 23 minutes to take the opening set as Van Uytvanck struggled to find answers to her opponent’s superior court coverage.
“I think I felt my nerves a little bit more, because the break was so long,” Martic told reporters in a virtual news conference. “It’s such a big uncertainty going on the court not knowing how you’re going to be.
“I played well before the break, so I was happy with the rhythm, but obviously five months off disrupts everything. Once the match started, I kind of let go and just played.”
In the other half of the draw, Juvan came from behind to beat the Czech Republic’s Vondrousova 1-6 7-5 6-4 to notch up the biggest win of the teenager’s career.
Juvan, who played three qualifying rounds to get into the main draw, is ranked more than 100 places below the 18th-ranked Vondrousova and overcame her nerves in the opening set to mount a memorable comeback.
“It was pretty hard to play, she’s obviously a great player,” Juvan said. “She started off really well and I was a little nervous.
“The conditions were pretty hard but then in the second and third set I calmed myself down and I started to play much better.”
The 19-year-old Juvan took a 4-0 lead in the second and nearly lost her advantage when Vondrousova won five games in a row but fought back to clinch the second set before breaking the Czech twice in the third to win in 2-1/2 hours.
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)