Stepping up to serve for the match at 6-3 *5-4 against Daria Gavrilova, you couldn’t blame Lucie Safarova for feeling the nerves. Just two weeks ago, Lucie had been in an almost identical position, up 6-4 *5-4 in their second round clash in Toronto. Lucie came within two points of the match but was unable to close it out with Gavrilova winning in three sets. There was a large intake of breath from Lucie at the last changeover but this time round, there was a different result as Lucie won, 6-3 6-4.
Compared to Toronto, the quality of this match was much higher and that was partly down to the conditions with less wind and a faster court. Both players were more aggressive and there were a handful of fantastic rallies. In Toronto, Lucie backed off towards the end of the second set and was struggling to hit through the ball because of the wind.
In their New Haven clash, Lucie played a solid first set; she lost an early break but broke again and then held to 30 to win it, 6-3. Lucie was up an early break in the second set but Dasha came back, as she often does, with some tenacious play to go ahead on serve. Rob came on at the changeover at *3-4 in the second set and reiterated the message to stay aggressive and not get “too safe” but overall, he was positive and said she was doing a really great job.
Screencaps in this post from TennisTV coverage
Lucie earnt the break at 4-4 and then despite a few little jitters (first point was a ball dumped into the bottom of the net!), served out the match in positive fashion. At deuce, the Czech player won an extended rally after Gavrilova netted and then closed out on her second match point with a volley winner. I didn’t have high hopes for New Haven but this was a really decent win and for the second straight week, Lucie has overturned a recent loss. Last week, she beat CoCo Vandeweghe in Cincy having lost to the American player at Wimbledon.
I was impressed with this performance from Lucie and it was one of her best showings since the French Open. She was much more aggressive on the forehand side and very solid off the backhand wing. She was also patient when she needed to be and won quite a few of the longer rallies where Dasha was making some great retrievals.
Lucie will play her second round match in the night session on Tuesday against Irina-Camelia Begu. In their only previous match, Begu beat Safarova in the semi-finals of Moscow last year, 7-6(5) 1-6 6-3. I remember being bummed at that loss because Lucie went in as the big favourite and it was a great opportunity to end 2014 with a final and possibly a title. Begu has stormed up the rankings since then and although she’s not quite there in terms of consistently beating players ranked below her, she’s a dangerous opponent. After that performance against Dasha, i’d probably favour Lucie but I don’t fancy her to go past the quarter-finals. One or two matches before the US Open would be ideal but we’ll see what happens. The US Open should obviously be the priority…
The Connecticut Open are once again doing a great job on social media and they are well worth a follow on Twitter. Lucie seems to be having a great time in New Haven from all the videos in press. I’ll leave you with a couple…
Video by Connecticut Open
Video by Tennis Atlantic