Eighteen years after reaching her maiden Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni is enjoying a career renaissance in 2017.
Her fairytale run to the last four at this year’s Australian Open set her up for impressive semi-final showings in Charleston and Acapulco.
At 35, she cracked the top 20 for the first time in May. But it has not all been smooth sailing since.
A debilitating shoulder injury has plagued the Croatian in recent months so after a gutsy 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-3 victory over world No.28 Anett Kontaveit in the opening round of the Connecticut Open on Sunday, Lucic-Baroni was understandably relieved.
“Really tough match, really tough first round,” Lucic-Baroni said. “I think she’s playing the best she’s played.
“It was a bit up and down, I was getting a bit frustrated with myself not being able to keep the one level the whole time but she picked up and played better so I was really happy overall that I was able to lift the level at the end to get the win.”
“It hasn’t been a secret that I’ve been struggling with my shoulder a lot and haven’t been able to play.
“I know I’m playing good, I know I’m fit, I’m strong but it’s difficult when your body’s not letting you do what you want to do.
“Lucky I’m tough, I’m strong, I’m stubborn. It’s been a couple of months but I got my win and now it’s like I can relax, it’s good.”
French former world No.11 Alize Cornet followed Lucic-Baroni into the second round in New Haven with a lop-sided 6-0, 6-0 victory over Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva. Cornet broke six times in the one-hour affair.
It was a good day for Belgium in the last of the qualifying matches with Kirsten Flipkens winning a battle of Wimbledon semi-finalists after she upset world No.33 Magdalena Rybarikova 6-3, 6-4. It was the 31-year-old’s first WTA Tour win in four attempts against the Slovak.
Moments after her result, third-seeded qualifier Elise Mertens joined her countrywoman in the main draw. The 21-year-old saw off Russian Natalia Vikhlyantseva 6-4, 6-4 to reach her maiden Connecticut Open main draw.
Qualifying second seed Kristyna Pliskova steadied to hold off Germany Carina Witthoeft 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 to reach the main draw. The Czech lefty sent down 16 aces in the two-hour encounter.
Romanian Ana Bogdan qualified after a routine 6-2, 6-2 victory over former world No.29 Kateryna Bondarenko, while Slovak Jana Cepelova defeated Christina McHale 6-3, 6-4 before the American was handed a lucky loser reprieve into the main draw, following Sloane Stephens’ withdrawal.
Poland’s Magda Linette was the last woman to qualify, seeing off Japan’s Kurumi Nara 6-2, 6-2.