Estoril Open: Alisa Kleybanova breezes to the next, Portuguese mix up ends in win for Joao Sousa

By Luís Santos
After a dreadful weekend where the rain and wind delayed the qualifying draws it was all sunny  in Lisbon at the Estoril Open, as qualifiers made their way into the main draw and first rounds got underway.

The women of the Estoril Open

On the women’s side, Alisa Kleybanova, top seed at the 2011 Estoril Open women’s event, jumped off to a great start breezing past Olga Govortsova 6-2 6-2 in just 67 minutes.

Alisa Kleybanova

The Russian was tied 2-2 in the head-to-head record against the Belrussian. But today her superior hitting and serving was too much to handle even for big-hitting Govortsova. Govortsova only managed to win 12 points on Kleybanova’s serve. The top seed now plays french Mathilde Johansson who beat Ksenia Pervak 6-4 6-3.

For 2006 champion Jie Zheng things didn’t go as smoothly, as she ran into Romina Oprandi of Italy. Oprandi is famous for her dropshots and has had good results on clay. The Chinese ended up losing in straight sets by the score of 6-4 6-2. Oprandi now plays Alla Kudryavtseva, who edged Anastasia Rodionova in three sets.

The Chinese contingent was out of luck as Shuai Zhang also went out at the hands of comeback girl Casey Dellacqua. Dellacqua is playing only her first WTA tournament since Wimbledon 2010.

Elsewhere, fifth seed Bethanie Mattek-Sands fell short today at the hands of Romanian Monica Niculescu. Mattek-Sands never let go, however, as she pushed Niculescu into a three-hour and six minute marathon before losing.

Tomorrow, 2007 winner Greta Arn will open her campaign against gutsy Portuguese hope Maria João Koehler. Arn knows how to win in Estoril but will MJK prove too determined for the Hungarian?
Also taking the court tomorrow are Melanie Oudin, recent Fes finalist Simona Halep, fourth seed and defending champion Anastasija Sevastova who opens the tournament against Urszula Radwanska. Klara Zakopalova and Australian Jarmila Gajdosova will also be in action.

The men of the Estoril Open

Over at the men’s side of the tournament, only four main draw matches took place with seventh seed Kevin Anderson proved to be resilient by pulling off a win over flyind dutcman  Thiemo de Bakker 5-7 6-3 6-2.

In an all Portuguese first round match up between João Sousa and Gastão Elias, it was the Sousa prevailing after a tense and at times excellently played match on Centre Court. Sousa drew first blood 7-6 after being a break down with Elias serving for the first set. The Bradenton based Elias regrouped and as Sousa grew increasingly exasperated he capitalized to take the second 6-2. In the third, Sousa jumped to a 4-1 lead and Elias started showing signs of cramping. Elias held for 4-2 and players were tied at deuce on Sousa’s serve when Elias fell to the ground after spanking a forehand. Unable to continue and down on the floor due to cramps he was forced to retire but was walked off the court by Sousa.

Sousa now meets the winner of the match between Milos Raonic and Igor Andreev.

Not so lucky was countrymen Rui Machado. The twenty seven year-old Portuguese, ranked number 102, drew former top 30 player Victor Hanescu and was all out of sorts for most of his encounter with the Romanian as he went out quietly 6-3 6-3.

Over on the last round of men’s qualifying, history was made as Portuguese tennis hope Pedro Sousa qualified for an ATP main draw for the first time in his young career, and at his home tournament nonetheless.

The 488th ranked had already been in the last round of qualifications twice before this year but the third time proved to be a charm as he passed Albert Ramos’ test. Ramos was the top seed and after splitting sets, the Spaniard went up 5-2. When it appeared the more experienced ATP-level player would prevail, Sousa battled back to claim the last five games with an arsenal of scorching winners and classic dropshots. In this stretch of the match, Pedro Sousa allowed a mere five points go the way of the 116th ranked Spaniard.
The Portuguese standout will now play former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro.