Coco Gauff comeback stuns Mertens as Pliskova falls early at Eastbourne
Playing late in the day, Gauff was picked apart by Mertens to begin with, and also trailed by a break in the second set, but the 17-year-old American rising star pulled off a 0-6 7-6 (7-4) 7-5 first-round win.
Seeds Elina Svitolina, Bianca Andreescu and Swiatek all came through three-set matches on a busy day, but Karolina Pliskova was not so fortunate in her opener.
Winner of the grass-court event in 2017 and 2019, Pliskova arrived as the defending champion after last year’s edition was cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic.
However, her hopes of a repeat triumph came to an early end, beaten in three sets by qualifier Camila Giorgi.
The fifth seed was in charge initially against an opponent she had prevailed against in five of their six previous meetings, yet Giorgi produced an impressive response having fallen behind – aided by a strong service performance – to win 2-6 6-2 6-2.
Svitolina, the second seed, had lost in her previous two appearances in the main draw, and it appeared history could be repeated when Paula Badosa claimed the opening set against her.
Yet the second seed recovered to level, then dominated the tie-break in the decider to triumph 4-6 6-1 7-6 (7-1) and set up a second-round meeting with Elena Rybakina, who edged out wildcard Harriet Dart in three sets.
Andreescu, meanwhile, recorded her maiden win on grass in the main draw of a WTA tournament. The Canadian was made to work for it by Christina McHale, eventually coming out on top by a 6-4 2-6 6-2 scoreline.
Swiatek eventually saw off the challenge of Heather Watson after two hours and 42 minutes on court, a 6-3 6-7 (4-7) 7-5 triumph making sure of a place in the last 16. Watson led 4-1 and 40-0 in the decider but could not finish off last year’s French Open champion.
This year’s Roland Garros runner-up, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, meanwhile, was beaten 6-1 6-3 by Jelena Ostapenko.
At the Bad Homburg Open, second seed Victoria Azarenka defeated fellow Belarusian Yuliya Hatouka 7-5 6-0 to reach the last 16.
Jessica Pegula bowed out, though, as the American – seeded third – went down in a three-set tussle against Katerina Siniakova.
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