McHale left to fly the flag in qualifying

August 19, 2017 06:06 PM

Christina McHale will be the sole home hopeful heading into the final round of Connecticut Open qualifying after defeating Japan’s Misaki Doi on a packed Saturday schedule in New Haven. The No.8 seed of Teaneck, New Jersey, fought back from 0-3 down in the second set and steadied after she was broken when serving for the match to secure a 6-4, 7-6(2) result.

It sets a showdown with Jana Cepelova for a place in the main draw. The Slovak took down No.6 seed Irina-Camelia Begu, of Romania.

“It’s the last American in qualifying but I’m just really happy with how I competed today and how I fought,” McHale said. “It was a really up and down match. At times Misaki was really playing well and I kind of just had to weather the storm and try and use my serve to mix it up and get myself back into the games.

“Even when I was down 3-0, I knew that just like she had done in the first set, I could do the same. The games were still really close. Sometimes there were just times Misaki was coming up with shots that were really good.”

Eight years after they faced off in the first round of the Australian Open, this year’s Wimbledon semi-finalist Magdalena Rybarikova likely never expected the chance to square the ledger against former World No.2 Vera Zvonareva, let alone in a qualifying round of the Connecticut Open.

The top seed in the qualifying draw had taken the first set 7-5 before the Russian’s WTA Tour return was brought to a premature end with a lower left leg injury.

Earlier in the day, two-time Grand Slam finalist Zvonareva had made a successful return to WTA Tour match play with a 2-6, 6-1, 6-1 victory over Australian Anastasia Rodionova, her first WTA match since Katowice more than two and half years ago.

Rybarikova, the World No.33, will meet an opponent also familiar with playing a Wimbledon semi-final, Belgian Kirsten Flipkens, for a main draw berth.

Flipkens ground out a 6-7(4), 6-3, 7-5 victory over German Tatjana Maria in two and a half hours.

Elise Mertens made it two from two for the Belgians after her defeat of Aleksandra Krunic, 6-4, 6-2. Mertens had beaten Olympic gold medalist Monica Puig in her first match of the day.

There was better news for Maria’s countrywoman, Carina Witthoeft, who earlier saw off American 12th seed Varvara Lepchenko 6-2, 6-3.

Witthoeft will carry the confidence of having claimed her only prior encounter with Czech No.2 seed Kristyna Pliskova in their final-round qualifying clash. Pliskova – the twin sister of World No.1 Karolina Pliskova – posted a 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 win over Bulgarian Viktoriya Tomova.

Poland’s Magda Linette set a final-round qualifying meeting with Japan’s Karumi Nara after a 6-1, 6-7(4), 6-4 victory over Frenchwoman Pauline Parmentier.

Friday’s washed out play meant Nara had to win two matches – her first over US wild card Julia Elbaba, before backing it up with a 7-6(6), 6-4 triumph against Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

Ukraine’s Kateryna Bondarenko won four straight sets on Saturday as she first saw off Maria Sakkari, of Greece, before a convincing 6-3, 6-1 result against No.9 seed Lara Arrubarrena.

Russian Natalia Vikhlyantseva joined the list of dual-match winners on Saturday after she saw off Kayla Day and Japan’s Shuko Aoyama in succession.

Romania’s Ana Bogdan dismissed Gabriela Dabrowski before she rounded out the day’s play with a hard-fought 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-4 win over Swede Johanna Larsson.