HOBART, Australia – Defending champion Heather Watson dropped just three games against Brazil’s Teliana Pereira to win, 6-3, 6-0, in the first round of the Hobart International.
A tight opening set saw the two exchange three service breaks, but Pereira’s inability to capitalize on nine of 10 break point opportunities paled in comparison to Watson’s perfect conversion rate. The Brit flew through the second set, losing just 12 points to seal up her opening round victory in just over an hour.
“I was very happy with how I played today,” she said in her post-match press conference. “At the beginning of the match, it was very competitive, and it was close because she was playing very well. That game at 2-2 to hold serve was crucial because after that I kind of went away with the match.”
Watson has good memories in Hobart, having won the tournament last year without dropping a set and with wins over three seeded players – Sloane Stephens, Roberta Vinci, and Alison Riske – before defeating Madison Brengle in the final.
“I like to see my picture on the walls!” Watson said of being the defending champion, but noted it’s not always easy coming back as the one to beat.
“I remember when I won Osaka in 2012, and I came back in 2013 I wasn’t in great form, and I was so nervous to defend all of those points; it was my first tournament defense. I didn’t deal with it well at all and I just couldn’t wait for the tournament to be over.
“This time around, I’m the total opposite. I’m really happy to be back here. As soon as I hit the first day, I was playing well. I don’t know what it is; I really like it here. I think today showed that I am enjoying the court and playing well.”
Watson will next play No.4 seed Monica Niculescu, who defeated American Christina McHale in two tight sets, 7-5, 7-5.
Earlier in the day, Eugenie Bouchard turned around an unfavorable head-to-head to dismantle Bethanie Mattek-Sands, 6-2, 6-1, winning in 57 minutes on Monday.
“It’s nice to get a win against her, finally!” Bouchard said after the match. “She’s a great player and I was really aware of when she was coming to net, that she’s an amazing doubles player, so I was trying to pass her.”
The Canadian had never beaten Mattek-Sands in either of their prior two encounters, but one would never know in Hobart, breaking serve six times and losing just eight points behind her first serve.
“I was feeling really solid out there. I just wanted to try to keep moving my feet – the ball can move all over the place, and that could be a bit tricky.”
Bouchard will next play No.8 seed Alison Van Uytvanck, who beat Carina Witthoeft, 6-2, 7-6(5) in her first round match.
Dominika Cibulkova was also solid in Hobart; the Slovak outgutted an in-form Johanna Konta in a topsy-turvy two-set match, 7-6(6), 7-5, to progress into the second round.
“I knew it was going to be a tough first round and I’m happy I handled it the way I did,” she told press after her win.
“I had a really good start, 5-1, and she started to be more aggressive. There were some points I got frustrated in the tiebreak – I was 1-6 down – but I came back. Today, I was really tough mentally; even when I made some mistakes I still stayed in the match.”
The big hitting former Australian Open finalist echoed Bouchard’s sentiments about the sort of windy conditions that could have derailed her big game.
“I was expecting the wind; I’ve been practicing here for three days and every day, it’s been windy. I was just focusing on the game and the things I had to do.”
Cibulkova next plays local wildcard Kimberly Birrell, who unexpectedly overcame Danka Kovinic, 6-4, 6-3.
Elsewhere around the grounds, No.9 seed Mona Barthel eased past Misaki Doi, 6-4, 6-4, to set up a second round encounter with qualifier Naomi Osaka; the 2015 WTA Rising Stars Invitational champion won a thilling three-setter over Jarmila Wolfe, 6-7(6), 7-6(8), 6-4. Lucky loser Veronica Cepede Royg lost in qualifying, but is into the second round in Hobart with a 6-3, 2-6, 6-1 win over Laura Pous-Tió; she next plays No.7 seed Alizé Cornet, who won on Sunday.
Brengle, seeded No.5, was runner-up in Hobart last year, but an upper respiratory illness forced her to retire against qualifier Kiki Bertens; the Dutchwoman next plays Annika Beck, who defeated Kurumi Nara in straight sets. The only other seed to go out was No.6 seed Barbora Strycova, who fell in straight sets to Johanna Larsson, who’ll next face Margarita Gasparyan for a place in the quarterfinals. Finally, ASB Classic quarterfinalist Nao Hibino won a closely-contested opening set before running away with the match against lucky loser Pauline Parmentier, 7-6(1), 6-1; the Japanese youngster will next have the opportunity to upset No.2 seed Camila Giorgi in the second round.