Belgian qualifier Elise Mertens has stunned seventh seed Kristina Mladenovic in the first round of Hobart International 2017.
The world No.127 recorded a comprehensive 6-1 6-2 victory in 55 minutes on Court Event Tasmania today.
“It was an incredible win,” an excited Mertens said. “I didn’t think it would be so fast. It was her first match here and it was my fourth match so maybe I had a bit of an advantage that I’d already played on this court, but she’s an incredible player and she’s just won the Hopman Cup so congrats to her.”
Mertens played an aggressive game and took all five break point opportunities she had. On the opposite side of the court Mladenovic, the world No.45, grew increasingly frustrated. She never really got into the match, misfiring ground strokes and only winning 30 per cent of points on her first serve.
“I played her on grass (last year) and lost, so I wanted to take revenge and it was my day today,” Mertens said.
The 21-year-old arrived in Hobart with two top 100 wins in her career. She has now doubled that, defeating world No.93 Nao Hibino in the first round of qualifying and now Mladenovic, the highest-ranked player she has ever beaten. Yet to drop a set in four matches this week, Mertens next plays American lucky loser Sachia Vickery, a 6-3 7-6(5) victor over Brazilian qualifier Teliana Pereira earlier today.
“I’m really pleased,” Mertens said of her form. “I’ve played pretty good during the whole tournament, so I hope I can still play like this tomorrow.”
Swede Johanna Larsson, the 11th seed and a semifinalist last year, survived a tricky first round encounter with Czech Kristyna Pliskova 6-7(5) 6-3 6-1 on Court Triple M.
Pliskova fired 11 aces in her Hobart debut – but the consistent Larsson won 71 per cent of points on her own serve to qualify for the Hobart International second round for a third consecutive year. The world No.51 next plays Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko, a 6-2 6-3 winner over Spaniard Silvia Soler-Espinosa earlier today.