Katerina Siniakova got off to a great start at the J&T Banka Prague Open Monday winning her opening round on her home soil. The 19 year old held firm against France’s Alize Cornet to win in straight sets 7-6(5), 6-3 on Centre Court at TK Sparta Praha advancing to the second round.
The two haven’t met in their careers and for the last three months, neither have been strong enough to get out of the second round or better in any of the tournaments since. For Cornet, it is a concern since winning the title at Hobart back in early January. With the hard court schedule on a long break, the time to get used to clay arrived and both didn’t have great showings in Stuttgart. The Frenchwoman went out in the first round while her Czech adversary didn’t make it through qualifications. With this being an important first round for both, making a move in the first few games will determine their strength to get through the week’s worth of matches for the championship.
Cornet saved her opening of the set coming back from two game points to force deuce with Siniakova. After battling through three breaks, she held serve to win it taking the early lead. The Czech did better on her first serve of the ball and used the home advantage to get an early break along with it. She found herself leading 3-1 after completing a second successful hold of serve. Cornet had to change up her strategy to get back in and in a huge statement, she returned with a three game winning streak that put her back out front with a 4-3 hold.
The Czech put an end to Cornet’s surge of victories when she got the ball back. On serve in the eighth, the 113th ranked player broke the Frenchwoman in the ninth to get the perfect setup of serving for the set. She found herself fighting for it, but the challenge from Cornet only meant the extension of the set as seven games became required to take control of the match.
Cornet was first up to get the opportunity to play for the set, but in the end she found herself in a fight on deuce with the Czech who would not go down. Siniakova struck back to win after four breaks that set up a tiebreaker that she was destined to win. Cornet gave it her all despite being down at times but with a three point streak, she reached a five all point before letting two unforced errors kill her chance at victory. It was a 1 hour and 11 minute battle that saw Siniakova right where she wanted to be.
In the second set she used her recent dictation to make a jump for control once more knocking out a tie with Cornet early before gaining a 3-1 lead. She won the fifth game that had in great position for walking away with it but her opponent notched another win while she had the chance to. The Czech star moved up 5-2 into the eighth where she played for the match but had to manage a lengthy deuce draw with Cornet. The two traded chances on the advantage through four breaks until a check of a ball landing on Cornet’s advantage gave her another win.
Siniakova had the ball to serve out the match but unforced errors and the desperation from Cornet proved to be too heavy. She allowed her opponent to a double break point but rallied back on a winner and an ace to force deuce. She earned a winner to gain the advantage and match point where Cornet’s return fell just wide of the line that ended her day on court. Siniakova was elated to get the win after playing nearly two hours of tennis in what became an important victory in her home country. Despite wanting to play one of her fellow countrywomen, she’ll have to deal with Su-Wei Hsieh of Taiwan who knocked out Kristyna Pliskova in a three setter.