The 20-year-old American Sofia Kenin has made the best possible start of her Hobart campaign, toppling the top seed Caroline Garcia 6-3, 6-2 in an hour and 13 minutes after a rock solid performance on both serve and return.
Serving at 75%, Sofia lost just 16 points in nine service games, fending off all three break points she faced and waiting for the chances on the return. They for sure came after she won more than 40% of the points on Garcia's serve, creating 10 break points and converting three to stay in front all the time.
The American hit the zone right from the start, serving well and imposing her shots in the rallies before she earned two break points in game six. Caroline saved them to stay on the positive side of the scoreboard but Sofia found the way to grab a break in game eight following a return winner that pushed her 5-3 up, taking the opener in the following game after a forehand error from Garcia.
Kenin broke at the start of the second set as well and she converted the sixth break chance in game three to forge a huge lead that she kept until the end, saving three break points in the last two service games and sealing the deal with an ace at 5-2 for the place in the second round, staying on the winning course after lifting the doubles trophy in Auckland with Eugenie Bouchard.
Hopman Cup champion Belinda Bencic had to work hard to defeat the 2nd seed Mihaela Buzarnescu, overcoming the first set deficit in a 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 win in two hours and 36 minutes after saving two match points on the return at 4-5 in the third set!
There were 24 break points up for grabs and it wasn't the match of the highest quality but they managed to push each other to the limits all the time, especially in that deciding set that produced real drama. Belinda hit 11 double faults, losing serve six times but stealing rival's serve on seven occasions to repel those match point and cross the finish line first.
The Swiss kicked off the match with a break but Buzarnescu got it back in game six before Belinda scored another one at 4-4, saving break points in the following game to take the opener 6-4. The second set was by far the most fluid part of the match and Mihaela claimed it with a single break at 3-2, forging the lead and bringing it home with a hold at 15 in game nine to set up a decider.
There, Buzarnescu created an early lead before no less than eight straight breaks, wasting those two match points while serving at 5-4 to continue the roller coaster ride that Belinda managed to end with her fourth straight break at 5-5, converting her third match point on serve a few minutes later to secure the place in the second round.
The 6th seed Alize Cornet needed an hour and 16 minutes to dismiss the Aussie qualifier Alison Bai 6-4, 6-2. The French girl lost just 14 points in nine service games, losing serve once from the only break point she offered to bai and winning half of the return points to claim four breaks from eight opportunities.
Cornet was the dominant figure in her games right from the start and she created the gap with a break at 3-3, wasting two set points on the return at 5-3 but closing the set on own serve in the following game. They traded breaks at the start of the second set before Alize found her rhythm again, breaking in games three and seven before clinching the win with an easy hold in the eighth game to move into the last 16. First round results:
Sofia Kenin (USA) vs [1/WC]Caroline Garcia (FRA) 6-3 6-2
Viktoria Kuzmova (SVK) vs Timea Babos (HUN) 6-3 6-3
Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) vs Dalila Jakupovic (SLO) 6-4 7-5
Alize Cornet (FRA) vs [Q]Alison Bai (AUS) 6-4 6-2
Alison Van Uytvanck (BEL) vs [LL]Madison Brengle (USA) 7-6(5) 7-5
[Q]Anna Blinkova (RUS) vs Shuai Zhang (CHN) 6-2 0-6 6-2
[WC]Zoe Hives (AUS) vs Johanna Larsson (SWE) 7-6(1) 7-6(2)
Belinda Bencic (SUI) vs Mihaela Buzarnescu (ROU) 4-6 6-3 7-5