Tennis

Marino overpowers Mboko; Kasatkina battles to victory in Granby

Tuesday in Granby was all about the debuts, as four young Canadians were competing in their first matches on the WTA Tour.

The youngest of that group was 15-year-old Victoria Mboko, who had to compete against a fellow Canadian, 31-year-old Rebecca Marino, in her first tour-level match. Unfortunately for the youngster, who compatriot had too much firepower and it was Marino walking away with a 6-3, 6-3 victory.

Mboko got off to a quick start, breaking serve in the first game of the match on her way to a 2-0 lead. From there, it was the powerful Marino controlling the tone of the match, using her huge serve and groundstrokes to keep the young gun on the defensive.

Rebecca Marino (facing) shakes hands with Victoria Mboko. Photo : Sarah-Jade Champagne

Marino broke back to level the set at 2-2 and never gave Mboko another break point chance in the match. She broke her 15-year-old to set herself up to serve for the opening set and broke twice more in the second on her way to the straight-sets victory.

A day after Katherine Sebov claimed her first WTA victory, 17-year-olds Marina Stakusic and Cadence Brace joined the club.

Early in the day, Stakusic got the ball rolling rallying from a set down to beat Jaimee Fourlis 4-6, 6-3, 6-2

It was a tough start for the young Canadian, who was broken in her first ever service game in a WTA Tour match as she dropped the opening set. She showed poise however at the start of the second, breaking twice as she raced ahead 4-0 and then kept herself together when Fourlis reclaimed both breaks. Stakusic quickly put the blip behind her, breaking back immediately before serving her way into a deciding set.

Kayla Cross prepares to hit a backhand.Kayla Cross. Photo : Sarah-Jade Champagne

The teen then broke in each of her first three return games in the third set, building enough of a cushion to send herself into the second round of the National Bank Championships with her first official WTA win.

Stakusic was one of three Canadian 17-year-olds making their WTA debuts on Monday.

Joining her as a first-time winner was Cadence Brace, who caused the first singles upset of the National Bank Championships by taking down No. 7 seed Kaja Juvan in straight sets.

Like Stakusic, Brace got off to a slow start, falling behind an early break, but was able to fight back to 3-all. She then pounced late in the set, breaking Juvan in the 12th game to take it.

After being broken in the opening game of the second set, Brace was once again able to turn things around, reeling off five straight games including two breaks to turn an 0-2 deficit into a 5-2 lead. Getting over the finish line proved tricky, but the Canadian was able to claim her first WTA victory on her fifth match point.

Kayla Cross was first up and had one of the toughest challenges in the form of the big-hitting fourth seed Anna Bondar. Cross put up a fight, but ultimately had no answer for the Hungarian’s power, falling in her first WTA main draw match 6-3, 6-4.

Despite the massive experience gap and over 1100 places between them in the rankings, Cross hung with Bondar early in the match and even scored the first break to go up 3-2. However, the fourth seed quickly turned the tables, winning four games in a row to take the opening set.

Cross again broke first in the second set to take a 3-1 lead, but just like the opener, the Canadian teen could not hold on. Bondar immediately broke back and then claimed another game on Cross’ serve which was all she needed to advance to the second round.

Top seed Daria Kasatkina, the lone Top 50 player in the draw, had a tough time in her opening match with Greet Minnen, but was able to battle for a three-set victory.

Daria Kasatkina. Photo : Saraj-Jade Champagne

Both women struggled to find a rhythm on serve in the opening set, exchanging breaks three times, including four breaks in a row from 4-all. Minnen served for the set twice but was unable to serve it out. However, the Belgian raced ahead to an early lead in the tiebreak and was finally able to hang on to take the set.

Kasatkina wasted no time in turning the match around, breaking serve in the opening game of the second set. She did it again in the third and both times was able to hold on to the lead as she advanced with a 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-2 win.

No. 3 seed Jasmine Paolini had an easier time in her opening match. She was pushed in the first set by lucky loser Himeno Sakatsume, narrowly squeaking it out 8-6 in the tiebreak, but the Italian was able to hang on for a 7-6(6), 6-4 victory.

Tenth seed Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine was the first player out on court on Monday and the first winner of the day, defeating 2021 Roland-Garros semifinalist Tamara Zidansek in straight sets 6-1, 7-5. She was joined the in the second round by fellow seeds Nuria Parrizas Diaz, No. 5, who beat Rebecca Peterson 6-2, 6-1 and No. 6 Tereza Martincova, a 6-2, 7-5 victor over Oceane Dodin.

In other singles action, Xiyu Wang reached the second round with a straight-set win over Jamie Loeb, as did Diane Parry with a win over Lulu Sun.

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