Top seed and last year’s champion Cagla Buyukakcay was amongst a slew of high-profile casualties at the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge on Tuesdat, as seven of the eight tournament seeds crashed out in round one.
The Turkish world No77, who made history last April when she won her first WTA title on home soil in Istanbul, fell 6-0, 7-6 (1) to unranked Russian Ksenia Pervak, who was playing just her second professional match since August 2015.
Buyukakcay, the first Turkish woman to win a WTA title, admitted rust was a factor in her defeat but is adamant it won’t dampen her big plans for 2017.
“Of course it’s tough to play the first match after preseason training, I was feeling a bit weird on court, I hadn’t played for two months and to get the rhythm on court again, you need matches and that’s why I’m here,” Buyukakcay told Sport360.
“I was excited to play in the morning but everything didn’t go well for me. We were playing some points in the last couple of days but it’s not the same feeling when you’re in the match so I was struggling to get into the rhythm again, to keep the ball in…
“I have to give credit to my opponent. She’s a great player, she used to be in the top-40 in the world, she keeps the ball always inside the court so I knew it and I knew I had to play longer rallies and stuff but I wasn’t very ready today. I made a lot of mistakes, that’s why I’m disappointed.
“But the year is just starting so it won’t put me down. I learnt a lot from today.”
Pervak is best known for winning the Australian Open junior title as a 17-year-old back in 2009 before storming into the world’s top-40 in 2011, thanks to a run to the Wimbledon fourth round and a WTA title triumph in Tashkent a couple of months later.
The 25-year-old announced her retirement from the sport in August 2015 but returned to action three months ago and her upset win over Buyukakcay will no doubt give her confidence in her comeback.
Buyukakcay doesn’t think being the defending champion affected her greatly but concedes that she relishes the role of the underdog far more than that of the favourite.
“Of course it’s part of the game (trying to defend your title). But also I realised that when I’m not a favourite in the tournament it works better for me.
“Since I got here, of course everybody is excited to see me around, I’m excited to see people and I have very good memories from last year but I was trying to focus on the first match because I thought it would be too difficult for me after preseason training, so I was ready for that. I don’t think it affected me.”
Buyukakcay’s 2016 was a breakthrough year for her not just because she won her maiden WTA crown but she also qualified to her first major and made the second round at Roland Garros and the US Open and hit a career-high ranking of 60 in the world.
She has higher hopes for 2017.
“Of course it was a great year for me, I think everything started for me here , I had the perfect end to the season last year (in Dubai), and after that everything got better and better for me in 2016,” said the 25-year-old.
“So now I have a challenge to defend my points, to go to compete at the highest level and to be in the main draw of grand slams but that’s why we play.
“I’m very excited first of all and I want to reach my career-high ranking again.”
Buyukakcay will officially kick off her 2017 season in Shenzhen, followed by Hobart then the Australian Open.
Swiss qualifier Patty Schnyder, who at 37, is launching a comeback to the sport she left in 2011, lost her first round on Tuesday to Austrian Barbara Haas 3-6, 6-3, 7-5.
No2 seed Kristina Kucova, No3 seed Evgeniya Rodina, Mandy Minella (No4), Rebecca Sramkova (No6), Aryna Sabalenka (No7) and Cindy Burger (No8) all followed Buyukakcay out of the first round.
Taipei’s No5 seed Hsieh Su-Wei was the sole seeded survivor as she eased past Viktoriya Tomova 6-3, 6-3.
The switch from clay to hard court proved trickier than anticipated for Omani wildcard Fatma Al Nabhani who lost 6-0, 6-0 to Dutch qualifier to Quirine Lemoine.
Source : sport360.com