Rome, May 9 (IANS) Barbora Strycova scored her first singles win in nearly three years after defeating Maryna Zanevzka 6-1 3-6, 6-3 in the first round of the Italian Open, here on Tuesday.
The 37-year-old Czech will face No.9 seed Maria Sakkari in the second round.
A former World No.1 in doubles and No.16 in singles, Strycova returned to competition at the Madrid Open after a two-year maternity break. There, she played her first singles match since the 2021 Australian Open, losing in straight sets to Elisabetta Cocciaretto.
“To be honest, when I played the match against Cocciaretto, it was a great match. After three years of not playing, I was surprised how I was hitting the ball, how I was moving,” Strycova told WTA Insider.
“I was like ‘Oh my god, I can still play with these girls.’ So it gave me confidence that I did something good during the three months of preparing myself,” she added.
Strycova took that confidence into the doubles tournament in Madrid, where she re-teamed with Hsieh Su-Wei to advance to the quarterfinals.
Strycova wore down Zanevska on Tuesday by rallying from a 2-0 deficit in the final set to earn her first singles win since defeating Varvara Lepchenko in the first round of Roland Garros in 2020.
Facing No.77 Zanevska, Strycova looked every bit the wily veteran who had not missed a day of competition. She raced out to a 4-0 lead in the first set before the Belgian began to lift her level. Down a break in the third set, Strycova won four consecutive games to wrench back control.
Strycova’s level on both the singles and doubles court has been remarkable considering she only started hitting again in February. It took just two months before she was back in fighting form.
“I had that feeling in April. I was hitting on hard court because I wasn’t sure if I would come and play in Madrid. I came home and told my partner that I’m hitting the ball crazy good. I’m winning practice matches. I played well against Petra Kvitova in a practice match. I felt I could do this,” said Strycova.