Lucieeeeee! For the first time since the 30th of October, 2015, Lucie Safarova won a singles match on the WTA tour; coming from a set down, Lucie defeated Mariana Duque-Mariño, 3-6 6-3 6-3, in the first round of the J&T Banka Prague Open on Tuesday.
It’s been a tough time for Lucie after suffering from a nasty bacterial infection that hospitalised her towards the end of 2015. She then experienced complications which delayed the start of her 2016 season. Lucie came back in Doha but had been winless in singles with losses to Cagla Buyukakcay (6-7(6) 5-7, Doha), Yaroslava Shvedova (3-6 4-6, Indian Wells), Yanina Wickmayer (2-6 3-6, Miami), Louisa Chirico (3-6 3-6, Charleston) and Karolina Pliskova (6-7(4) 6-4 5-7, Stuttgart). Lucie’s last singles performance demonstrated a marked improvement as she pushed Pliskova deep into a third set.
In her Prague opener, Lucie lost the first set to an impressive, Duque-Mariño, 3-6. She didn’t play a bad set, but was rather reactive as the Columbian player dictated proceedings. Lucie had a confidence-boosting hold to open the second set, saving a break point, and then began to motor on her serve. In fact, after dropping serve in her opening service game of the match, Lucie enjoyed 12 consecutive holds. The serve is the crux of her game and this was such an encouraging sign to see her find such a solid rhythm on it. The first serve percentage was about 69% for the last two sets, but the second serve was holding up well.
When the serve’s on song, it impacts positively on all aspects of her game; there was a big step-up from the first set as she started to come forward and dictate play, firing away plenty of forehand winners, which she was timing beautifully… it really looked like a weapon again! Lucie earnt the vital break of serve up 3-2 in the second set. She set up the break point with a crashing backhand winner and then converted with a dinked winner after Duque-Mariño’s shot had clipped the net, forcing the Czech player to react. The serve helped Lucie to wrap up the second set without any obstacles.
Lucie carried that momentum into the decider where she got the break of serve immediately. Duque-Mariño began to look a little tired, struggling to have the same effectiveness on her backhand slice that she had had in the first set. There were a couple of ups and down in the third set; Lucie was forced to save two break points up 3-2, one with a big forehand winner and the other with an ace. Lucie is one of the best at saving break points, aided by the serve. She also had two break points in the next game at 4-2 but couldn’t convert. As good as the break point saves are, Lucie’s conversion rate is never a strength! The return is one area that Lucie has really struggled with in 2016. There were still a lot of missed returns but she did manage to carve out some opportunities in the second and third sets.
The potentially nerve-jangling game came at 4-3 in the third set, serving after the disappointment of missing break points in the previous game.. Normally this spells trouble but Lucie enjoyed a comfortable hold and it proved to be decisive. Lucie then broke for the third time in the match to seal her first singles victory of 2016. You could see how much this win meant to her at the end and the squeal she made after shaking hands with the umpire was everything… a really heartwarming moment!
Currently ranked at number 16 in the world, Lucie faces some big points to defend in the next month. Roland Garros looms on the horizon, but the outlook is positive… she looks healthy and has shown great improvement, particularly since the loss to Chirico where she looked a few steps slow. Lucie has looked much sharper in her last two singles matches and against Duque-Mariño, she chased down some balls I don’t think she would have got to a few weeks ago. The improvement has surely been helped along with all the doubles she has played recently with Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Sabine Lisicki.
Lucie is back in action on Wednesday where she plays Lucie Hradecka in the second round of the J&T Banka Prague Open. While Lucie has lost her last seven matches against Czech players (stretching all the way back to Wimbledon 2014!), this is actually a good match-up as she has won all three previous encounters against Hradecka. It will be an interesting match and will depend on Lucie’s recovery after her first rounder which lasted over two hours. I hope that Lucie can put up another great fight.
Well done, Lucie and keep fighting! Team Safarova is rooting for you all the way 😀
14 thoughts on “Lucie Safarova wins her first singles match in 2016!”
So happy for Lucie!! 🙂 This first win since her injury will definitely help her! 🙂 That’s really great!!
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This is great news. Lucie’s one of the nicest people in sport, never mind tennis, and richly deserves some success after the awful luck she had last autumn in falling ill.
On the subject of comebacks from illness or injury, it’s heartening to see Laura Robson win her first WTA singles match (at Rabat in Morocco) since her wrist injury in 2013. Let’s hope this is the start of better things for Laura in the future; she’s got a protected ranking at Roland Garros next month so has a chance to do well there.
I was watching the Kuznetsova match and nodded off when she went a break up in the second set. Woke up and she was 5-2 down. I will not fall asleep during one of her matches again!
Getting there but still not quite there yet. Come on Lucie!
And her second! A good run here would be a real boost for her.
Is there a reason Petra isn’t playing? I recall last her her people saying that she couldn’t commit to an International tournament as she’d already signed up for her quota on low level tournaments. They stated she’d be here for it this year though…
Rough for Lucie H., but great for Lucie S. to get some more singles match play! I think that top ten players normally can only play two International events a year, one in the first half and one in the second half. Petra has already played Shenzhen… but imagine Prague doesn’t really fit into her schedule as would guess she likes to play Stuttgart and Madrid, both a bit faster.
I watched her training a day before the first match and it wasnt very good. I wached her first match and from the second set she is playing very good tennis. Today she helped herself with good serves against BB, nice to see.
Strycova has still problems with movement on clay but she is getting better. First match in doubles she just killed the win on the net. Thats unusual. Single matches she just won the important games. Today she should loose the first set but Cepelova broke down.
Pliskova is just spectacular, I dont like her very much, but the tennis she plays especially in first sets, thats really something. But tommorow it might be different if Giorgi stays in the court. I will be there watching.
All in all I have to say that here in Prague is very very cold, it was even snowing during matches on Tuesday and for players it is difficult to stay prepared during the matches. Actually Svetlana asked for heaters on court on next to chairs and WTA approved it. Girls are really freezing in doubles where they move less. There will be probably a few sick players after that I can imagine. Thats just a few words about JTB Open.
Thanks for the information, Tomas!
Prague is cold at the moment, true, and the day’s play in Munich even had to be cancelled yesterday because of rain and snow;
Looks like the players who chose Rabat instead – who include Timi Bacs – made a good choice this time; highs in Rabat this week are around 21^C (70^F), so pleasantly warm.
Anyway, well done again Lucie even though she obviously wasn’t happy that her opponent’s injuries contributed to her win. The quarter finals beckon!
Czech isn’t the easiest language in the world to learn but all the same I wish I was able to understand Lucie’s on court interview after yesterday’s match; she was clearly having some fun with the interviewer who was engaging in a bit of verbal footsie with her, and I find it frustrating when I can’t understand a word. Maybe I’ll ask if anyone in my Twitter circle can speak the language.
I hear you, Graham! I wish I could understand as well because it seemed a really nice interview.
Thanks James. I’ve had another look and found that someone’s had a go at translating the interview, and posted the results on Lucie’s Facebook page. So many thanks Proste tenis!
I’ve tried to parse it to make it more readable;
For English visitors of the page translation of the interview. Sorry for mistakes wink emoticon
Reporter – I don´t know where begin.
The first win in the season, after long time in Prague, are you satisfied?”
Lucy – “Absolutely. I am absolutely satisfied that I managed to break it just here at home. (Lucy to spectators) I must say that you are really awesome and you jumped me ahead. I thank you much. ”
Reporter – “When you evaluate your tennis, is it there, where it should be?”
Lucy – “I think it is approaching there, there are sometimes many mistakes, but I am working hard and I hope it would be good soon.”
Reporter – “Physical condition is back, you catched stopballs” ….. (microphone doesn´t work)
Reporter – “The microphone wasn´t probably ready”
Lucy was laughing – “The condition is better and better” (problems with microphone again)
Lucy – “It looks like the microphone doesn´t want me” (laugh)
Reporter – “The condition is better”
Lucy – “The condition is better and better (laugh) and would be even better”
Svetlana playing here is odd right before Madrid. I sort of dont want her to keep playing because she’ll burn out or get injured…
I haven’t got a chance to watch her last 2-3 matches (which is always frustrating for me, bloody work!) so thanks for reviewing this one, James! I’m really happy to hear that she had a solid serve and that while saving break points, she also managed to convert some of them! I agree that her biggest struggle since her come back has been the return games, usually bad stats on those… mostly also because she was much slower on court… but I think now she got a huge boost with the doubles success and obviously being on clay now… she will get back there 🙂 she has the most important thing already: she believes in herself, that will get her anywhere she wants!
Kuznetsova willing herself though this event in a way that you almost never see her do against low ranked players in low ranked events. Makes you wonder what heights she’d have reached if she always applied herself like this!