Tennis: Smart play pays off for Kiwi No 1

By Dave Worsley in New York

World No 82 Marina Erakovic unleashes lethal forehand to defeat 20th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova in three sets

New Zealand No 1, Marina Erakovic, defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova, of Russia, during the first round of the US Open. Picture / AP
New Zealand No 1, Marina Erakovic, defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova, of Russia, during the first round of the US Open. Picture / AP

New Zealand tennis No 1 Marina Erakovic will play Russian Elena Vesnina after scoring one of the upsets of the US Open so far, beating former champion and 20th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova in three sets in hot conditions.

The 3-6, 6-2, 7-6(3) scoreline in two hours 19 minutes was a highlight for Erakovic as it was her first singles win in New York and showed her grit and determination as well as her lethal forehand which was key for her 31 winners.

"I was hot out there and the rallies we had were quite physically demanding. I gave it my all. I just really like this match today. It's something I'm happy about. I'm not sure where it rates, but it was good to win," said Erakovic. "Obviously I was down in the third set [so] I decided to play as aggressive as I could on the forehand. I would have liked to have had a better serve - it would have made like a bit easier."

The first set saw an exchange of service breaks early on before Erakovic was broken in the fourth game and wasn't able to come back from there. However in the second set she upped her performance with more energy on her shots and was able to break the former No 2 ranked Kuznetsova's serve on three occasions.

The final set was tense all the way and saw 82nd-ranked Erakovic down a break as Kuznetsova looked to have the edge, but the Kiwi steadily forced her way back in to the game with a couple of key forehand winners to take the match to the tiebreak.

The tiebreak was watched by a capacity crowd on the new No 5 court which had spectators marvelling at both players, but especially the forehand winners from the Kiwi.

"It was tough. I just tried to keep calm and just tried to move on. I lost my serve and she had the break and I just throught I'd chip away. I tried to play smart and work the points."

Kuznetsova had the misfortune to double fault on match point leaving Erakovic to throw her racquet in the air for what is one of her better Grand Slam victories and her first at the US Open.

Vesnina ranked 56, has played Erakovic four times with matches shared. The last time they clashed was in 2012 in Budapest with Vesnina the winner on that occasion.

"She [Vesnina] hits a really flat ball and has a very good backhand. My game is not going to change against her. I'll work on my serve, but just be solid," said Erakovic.

Meanwhile, Artem Sitak, in his first Grand Slam had a good win by teaming up with German Benjamin Becker to account for the 14th seeds, Treat Huey (Philippines) and Dominic Inglot (Britain) in three sets.

The 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-2 victory played on an outside court consolidates a great couple of months which has seen his ranking rise from outside the top 100 to 78 within the eight weeks. This also includes winning the doubles title at the ATP tour event at Stuttgart with Pole, Mateusz Kowalczyk, a rarity for a Kiwi player.

"I think we played really well," said Sitak.

"We served for the set at 5-4 in the first and dropped that and then it got really intense but we stayed calm in our heads and got the tiebreak out of the way.

"In the second we played well but that just happened. In the third set we came out with plenty of energy and kind of wanted it more."

- NZ Herald

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