Lesia Tsurenko showed that being steady wins the race at the Nature Valley Classic Tuesday afternoon. Her hold of serve and tight conclusions to each set gave her straight sets win over Heather Watson 7-6(2), 7-5 on Ann Jones Centre Court at Edgbaston Priory Club.
The Brit was once again reminded of her history with the Ukrainian and would try to keep it in her favor with the home support still leaning her way. Last year, the 25-year-old went the distance at Eastbourne to come out of a three-setter. Tsurenko hasn’t played since withdrawing from action at Roland Garros against Garbine Muguruza and would make her return having had two weeks to recover.
She came out with a hold of serve following Watson who suddenly had issues on the rallies that gave her opponent some breathing room. Tsurenko got free points on unforced errors by the Brit that allowed her the break in the third before holding for a 3-1 lead. Watson got a hold that kept her close to Tsurenko and remained that way despite trailing after seven games. The Brit built upon her win from that point and took the next two games that included a break gave Watson a 5-4 lead. Unforced errors were becoming too frequent from the Ukrainian but saved the match from ending with a key hold.
She and Watson played on holding serve to force a tiebreak with one another. Tsurenko got the mini-break right away and took from there. When she was on serve she devastated Watson with big shots that the Brit couldn’t save to keep playing on. It let out of a scream of frustration and a 6-1 deficit for her to overcome. She gained one point but was put down as the Ukrainian took the set after 53 minutes. Tsurenko had 13 winners in her one set lead but knew the errors had to minimize in order to pull off her mission to advance.
It was a steady pace for the two as Tsurenko led the way holding serve on Watson. As the games went by, there was little opportunity for either player to get a break point chance. The Ukrainian kept the edge over Watson but as the goal got closer, tensions rose in the games of both women. They got into a five-all tie with Watson showing some issues with the return side of the game that was enough for Tsurenko to deal with. After holding serve in the 11th, the 29-year-old attacked for the only break of the set that gave her the straight sets win after 1 hour and 49 minutes.
“We had a dramatic match last year at Eastbourne and today was tough and so close,” Tsurenko said after the match. “It was tougher to keep winning my serves in the second set so I was fighting hard for that and my goal was to win my serve and I was doing what I could on the return because she was doing so well. Her serve is so great and I think her game suits well to the grass courts so I’m really glad to win today because it was a tough first match for me.”
The tournament gets harder for everyone and she’ll experience taking on the winner between Daria Kasatkina and Kristyna Pliskova in the next round.