Playing in St. Petersburg for the first time, Maria Sharapova has made an excellent start in front of the home crowd after a 6-0, 6-4 win over a former Russian Daria Gavrilova in an hour and 47 minutes, her third straight over Daria after losing the first clash in Miami 2015.
Interestingly, they needed almost two hours to complete 16 games, with the opener lasting for nearly 50 minutes despite a bagel that Sharapova served. In the match with no real rhythm, both players faced nine break points and Sharapova saved eight to limit the damage in her games and keep the pressure on her rival despite struggling a lot after missing the first serve.
Daria won more than 40% of the return points but that wasn't enough for a positive outcome, dropping more than half of the points behind the initial shot and losing serve five times. After numerous deuces, Maria won the first set 6-0 with a backhand crosscourt winner, taking the majority of the critical points for the best possible start.
Gavrilova bounced back in the sixth game of the second set when she broke Sharapova with a backhand drive-volley winner for a 4-2 lead. Maria broke back in the very next game after a well-constructed attack and a forehand winner, building the momentum and securing another break in game nine following a forehand error from Daria.
Serving for the match at 5-4, Maria saved a break point and crossed the finish line with another powerful forehand for the place in the second round. A former world no. 2 Vera Zvonareva is through to the second round as well following a 6-3, 6-4 triumph over Ekaterina Makarova in an hour and 14 minutes.
These two had played their first match back in 2008 and Zvonareva scored the second win in five encounters overall, losing serve just once and breaking Ekaterina three times to prevail in straight sets. The more experienced Russian played better on both the first and second serve, controlling the pace from the baseline and taking 44% of the return points to earn five break points.
Makarova drew first blood with a break in game five before Vera pulled it back a few minutes later thanks to a forehand crosscourt attack that forced an error from Ekaterina. Zvonareva made two easy holds in the rest of the match and turned the scoreboard around with another break in game eight before a hold at love and a service winner that pushed her 6-3 up.
The second set was more fluid and there was only one break of serve after a forehand error from Makarova at 2-2 that cost her dearly, with Vera serving for the match in game ten. Zvonareva erased the danger with some powerful hitting and she moved over the top with a service winner to set the second round clash against Maria Sakkari or Julia Goerges.
In an all-Belgian clash, Alison Van Uytvanck took down Kirsten Flipkens for the first win over a compatriot since 2015. Alison lost serve twice but she quickly left that deficit behind, dominating on the return to take 53% of the points and notch five breaks, rattling off the last four games to cross the finish line after trailing 4-2. Monday's results:
Final qualifying round results:
Ysaline Bonaventure (BEL) vs Katie Boulter (GBR) 6-7(3) 6-4 6-2
Margarita Gasparyan (RUS) vs Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) 6-1 6-0
Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) vs Anna Kalinskaya (RUS) 7-6(4) 6-0
Tereza Martincova (CZE) vs Natalia Vikhlyantseva (RUS) 6-4 6-1
First round results:
Maria Sharapova (RUS) vs Daria Gavrilova (AUS) 6-0 6-4
[WC]Vera Zvonareva (RUS) vs [WC]Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) 6-3 6-4
Alison Van Uytvanck (BEL) vs Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) 6-2 6-4