French Open: Svetlana Kuznetsova survives marathon opening round

Title contender and eighth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova had to battle past Christina McHale in a complicated match in Paris.

French Open: Svetlana Kuznetsova survives marathon opening round
Svetlana Kuznetsova moves on to the second round | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe
Svetlana Kuznetsova
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Christina McHale

Svetlana Kuznetsova, one of the title favourites for Roland Garros, had a tricky start to her French Open campaign as she had to battle for over two hours to get past the dangerous Christina McHale, triumphing in straight sets despite the duration of the match.

Kuznetsova steals the first set

Kuznetsova had the perfect start to the match as McHale hit three unforced errors to throw her opening service game away, with the American serving a double fault at deuce, the most crucial point of the game. The top 10 player then overcame some early struggles on her serves and came from 0-30 down to hold her serve eventually, opening a 2-0 lead after 10 minutes. Looking very comfortable on the Paris clay courts, Kuznetsova saved two game points to break serve once more and get the formidable double break advantage.

Svetlana Kuznetsova in action | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe
Svetlana Kuznetsova in action | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe

Just when she was strolling in the match, she allowed McHale to find a way back by conceding five break points, with the American ultimately finding her first game of the day. The underdog then held her serve for the first time as she lessened the deficit to just one game all of a sudden. Kuznetsova finally came up with some of her best tennis as she hit in some solid serves to hold her service game and regain a two-game lead. The Russian then found herself just one game away from winning the first set when she comfortably held her serve and earning her first set point in the eighth game while McHale was serving to stay in the set.

Nevertheless, the American held her nerves and saw the Russian making some unforced errors to gift McHale the tight service hold. Kuznetsova’s inability to convert her chances cost her initially as the lower-ranked player broke straight back with the help of two double faults by the Russian, with the scores being leveled at 5-5 all of a sudden. Regaining her composure at the crucial moments, Kuznetsova got herself a late break of service as she earned another chance to serve out the set, and she finally managed to seal the set as four consecutive winners won it for her.

Svetlana Kuznetsova serves in her first round win | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe
Svetlana Kuznetsova serves in her first round win | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe

Kuznetsova takes the win

A double fault gifted Kuznetsova the first service break of the second set as the Russian carried over the momentum from the first set, looking poised to close out the match. It was a galore of service breaks as McHale immediately broke back before the world number nine gave the perfect reply by regaining the lead with some impressive tennis. She finally managed to consolidate the break after saving a break point in the process, before enduring through several tough games and missing several opportunities to extend her lead, with the scores being at 4-2 in the Russian’s favour.

From then on, Kuznetsova wasted three break points and two game points only to see McHale return level on serve all of a sudden. The Russian was largely affected by a time violation call by the umpire at deuce in the seventh game, causing a first serve to be taken away from her, which resulted in a second serve return winner hit by McHale.

Svetlana Kuznetsova celebrates winning a point | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe
Svetlana Kuznetsova celebrates winning a point | Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images Europe

Kuznetsova finally regained the lead after yet another tight game which saw her break serve with the help of McHale’s messy unforced errors. Serving for the match, Kuznetsova finally sealed the victory after over two hours as she successfully held her serve without any problems. It was generally an untidy match played by both players, with Kuznetsova failing to convert most of her opportunities but eventually grinding out the tough victory in a little over two hours.

Tennis