|File photo of Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania during the Connecticut Open at Connecticut Tennis Centre at Yale in New Haven, Connecticut, USA. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images/AFP)
MOSCOW: Romania's seventh seed Irina-Camelia Begu battled back from a set down to beat Bulgaria's Tsvetana Pironkova on her way to the second round of the Kremlin Cup in Moscow on Monday (Oct 19).
At the ATP and WTA combined event in the Russian capital, Begu - last year's runner-up here - won 1-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-2 to level her head-to-head record with Pironkova at two-all.
Pironkova, 48th in the world, looked in command from the start earning a 5-0 lead before Begu chalked up her first game. Bulgaria's 28-year-old served for the match twice but Begu managed to resist on both occasions sending the match into a tiebreak, which she won.
In the deciding set, Begu moved up a gear to claim a 4-0 advantage, which she didn't relinquish. "It's always difficult to play the first match," Begu said. "I'm happy I could save the second set and had another chance in the third."
In Monday's early match, 2011 champion Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia ousted Russia's wild card Elena Vesnina in straight sets 7-5, 6-1.
Vesnina got off to a lively start to gain a 5-2 lead. She served for the set but Cibulkova, 34th in the WTA rankings, rallied to win nine consecutive games, taking the opening set and grabbing a commanding 4-0 lead in the second.
"I wouldn't say I've been struggling at the beginning," Cibulkova said. "It was my first match in Moscow and the surface here is a bit different. It was a kind of warming up and after I'd adjusted myself to the court, I started to play my normal tennis."
In a clash for a place in the last eight, Cibulkova will face fifth seed Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain, who enjoyed an opening-round bye.
Meanwhile, Russia's two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova cruised comfortably into the second round with a 6-0, 6-3 victory over unheralded Katerina Siniakova of Czech Republic.
In the ATP section, 30-year-old Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver produced the first upset of the event as he survived a war of attrition against seventh seed Joao Souza of Portugal to win the cliffhanger 7-6 (7/2), 4-6, 7-5.
"It was a very close match with a really tough battle in every set," Gimeno-Traver said. "Some points at the very end just made the deciding difference."
Men’s first round:
Andrey Kuznetsov (RUS) bt Radu Albot (MDA) 6-4, 6-2
Teimuraz Gabashvili (RUS) bt Cem Ilkel (TUR) 6-2, 6-1
Daniel Gimeno (ESP) bt João Sousa (POR) 7-6 (7/2), 4-6, 7-5
Women’s first round:
Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) bt Katerina Siniakova (CZE) 6-0, 6-3
Irina Begu (ROM) bt Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL) 1-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-2
Dominika Cibulkova (SVK) bt Elena Vesnina (RUS) 7-5, 6-1
Lesya Tsurenko (UKR) bt Aleksandra Krunic (SRB) 6-3, 6-1
Margarita Gasparyan (RUS) bt Varvara Lepchenko (USA) 7-5, 7-6 (7/4)