WTA Lexington: Cori Gauff follows Serena and Venus Williams. Fernandez ousts Stephens

Tennis - Shelby Rogers, Catherine Bellis, Jil Teichmann, Julia Putintseva, Anna Blinkova and Olga Govortsova reached the second round

by Jovica Ilic
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WTA Lexington: Cori Gauff follows Serena and Venus Williams. Fernandez ousts Stephens

Competing for the first time since the Australian Open fourth-round clash with Sofia Kenin, the 16-year-old Cori Gauff won the opening match in Lexington. The youngest player in the draw prevailed against a qualifier Caroline Dolehide 7-5, 7-5 in an hour and 42 minutes, scoring four breaks and getting broken only twice to seal the deal in straight sets.

Dominating with her first serve, Cori fended off five out of seven break chances, taking 44% of the return points and converting them into four breaks from six opportunities to join Serena and Venus Williams in the second round.

Gauff held at love in the first game with a service winner, landing a deep return in game two for an instant break and a 2-0 lead. The youngster produced another comfortable hold that sent her 3-0 in front, taking 12 of the first 14 points and settling into a great rhythm.

Another powerful serve pushed Cori 4-1 up, controlling the pace so far and moving 5-2 in front following a backhand error from Dolehide. Caroline saved a set point with a forehand drive winner in game eight, earning momentum and breaking back at 15 in game nine to prolong the set.

Losing ground a bit, Cori came back from 30-0 down in game 11, saving a break point with a perfect drop shot and another one with an ace down the T line. The youngster finally brought the game home and fired a backhand crosscourt winner in the next one for a crucial break and a 7-5 advantage.

Dolehide grabbed an early break in the second set, wasting the opportunity to move 3-0 ahead and improve her chances. Both players served well in the following games, leaving Dolehide serving for the set at 5-4. Gauff broke back at 15, securing the 11th game with an ace and moving over the top with another break at 6-5 to march into the second round.

The 7th seed Sloane Stephens turned a terrible start of the season into an even worse one, suffering a 6-3, 6-3 loss against the 17-year-old qualifier Leylah Fernandez.

Cori Gauff defeated Caroline Dolehide 7-5, 7-5.

The youngster was always in front against a former US Open champion, dropping only 15 points in nine service games and taking almost half of the return points for four breaks from five opportunities.

Leylah rattled off 13 of the first 15 points, forging a 3-0 advantage before Sloane broke back at 15 in game five for some positive vibes. That didn't last long, though, losing serve in the next game and allowing Fernandez to save a break point and close the set at 5-3.

The Canadian never looked back, sailing through her service games in set number two and stealing the opponent's serve in games three and nine for a winning start. Shelby Rogers drew the most from a wild card, ousting Misaki Doi 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 in two hours and seven minutes, bouncing back after set number two with an excellent performance in the decider.

Returning from numerous injuries, Catherin Bellis is back on the winning way, toppling a lucky loser Francesca Di Lorenzo 6-1, 6-2 in 61 minutes for the fourth victory of the season. Bellis defended seven out of eight break chances, reducing damage in her games and earning five breaks to control the scoreboard and sprint past her opponent.

Venus Williams Shelby Rogers Anna Blinkova
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