Van Uytvanck overcomes Shinikova in three sets; Belgium lead

PERTH, Australia — Alison Van Uytvanck kicked off Belgium’s United Cup campaign with a hard-fought 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 win over Bulgaria’s Isabella Shinikova in 1 hour and 43 minutes.

Five-time Hologic WTA Tour titlist Van Uytvanck had entered as the favourite against No.381-ranked Shinikova, and lived up to that status over a dominant first half-hour. She rattled through eight of the first 10 games, going up a break for 2-1 in the second set as Shinikova double faulted twice.

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But Shinikova, who showed little sign of the leg injury that had beset her during a three-set defeat to Greece’s Despina Papamichail on Day 1, struck back in style. Introducing more variety into her game, the 31-year-old added subtle chips and drop shots to her aggressive tactics to turn the second set around.

Van Uytvanck’s error count increased from six to 20 as she struggled to adjust. Striking winners off both wings with real panache, Shinikova took five of the next six games to level the match and set her sights on a sixth career Top 10 win.

The start of the third set saw the highest level of tennis from both players, with Van Uytvanck conjuring a pinpoint lob winner off her toes in the first game and Shinikova scrambling up and down the court before finding a pass in the second. No.72-ranked Van Uytvanck reasserted her authority in the sixth game, coming up with a winning dropshot and taking advantage of two Shinikova double faults to break for 4-2.

That proved decisive. Van Uytvanck, now back in a groove on serve, closed out the win at the first time of asking, firing a forehand down the line on match point for her 31st winner of the day.

Bulgaria’s top ATP player, Grigor Dimitrov, will endeavour to get his team back on track as he takes on Belgium’s David Goffin in the second rubber of the tie.

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