Bencic follows Hopman Cup win with tough 1st-round in Hobart

HOBART, Australia (AP) — Belinda Bencic has followed up her title at the Hopman Cup with a 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 win over second-seeded Mihaela Buzarnescu in the first round of the Hobart International.

Bencic, who combined with Roger Federer to win the international mixed teams event in Perth, Western Australia, on the weekend, kept up her successful start to the season in Australia's southern island state.

The third set contained nine service breaks, including seven straight, as blustery conditions made it difficult for both players. Bencic had two match points in the 10th game of the third set but dropped serve before winning the last two games to seal her spot in the second round.

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"It was an incredibly up-and-down match — very hard work," said Bencic, who dropped her racket in relief and exhaustion after clinching it on her fifth match point. "I'm a really emotional player and then the wind comes and I'm even more emotional. I feel like 'Ah, this wind is against me,' but I have to remember it is for both players."

Buzarnescu, a finalist last year at Hobart, was one of the four highest-seeded players to lose on Tuesday.

Sofia Kenin beat top-seeded Caroline Garcia 6-3, 6-2, third-seeded Zhang Shuai lost to Russian qualifier Anna Blinkova 6-2, 0-6, 6-2 and No. 4 Maria Sakkari was beaten 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 by Magda Linette.

"She was a top 5 player, so I knew I had to play my best to win. I tried to not act like I was nervous, even though I was," Kenin said. "I was controlling the points, I was dictating so that was a big part and I was holding serve every time, so that helps."

Seventh-seeded Kirsten Flipkens beat Dalila Jakupovic 6-4, 7-5, 2016 Hobart champion Alize Cornet opened with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Alison Bai, eighth-seeded Alison Van Uytvanck had a 7-6 (5), 7-5 win over Madison Brengle and Viktoria Kuzmova beat Timea Babos 6-3, 6-3.

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