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Svitolina scrapes through in Birmingham

Press Association logoPress Association 6 days ago

Heather Watson gave world No.5 Elina Svitolina a scare before falling to defeat in the opening round of the Aegon Classic in Birmingham.

The British No.3 played an excellent second set to level the match but one break of serve in the third proved decisive, with Svitolina going on to win 6-2 5-7 6-3.

The Ukrainian is the highest-ranked player in the tournament after Angelique Kerber pulled out with a hamstring problem - one of a rash of withdrawals to hit the event.

Svitolina has had a brilliant year but has struggled on grass in the past, winning only four matches in her career before this one and losing in the first round on both previous trips to Birmingham.

Watson was too error-strewn in the opening set to put any real pressure on her opponent but recovered well in the second.

After saving break points at 1-2 and 2-3, Watson found more aggression on her shots and broke the Svitolina serve to lead 6-5.

She served out the set confidently, finishing with a forehand winner down the line.

A career-best scalp appeared attainable but Watson ended the match frustrated after dropping serve in the fourth game of the decider.

While Watson fell, her fellow Brit Naomi Broady produced an upset sending Frenchwoman Alize Cornet out with a 7-6 (703) 6-0 victory.

Eighth seed Barbora Strycova advanced with a 6-3 6-3 win over Yulia Putintseva and Japan's Naomi Osaka also won through with a 6-1 2-6 7-6 (7-4) win over American Lauren Davis.

Australians Daria Gavrilova and Ashleigh Barty will get their Birmingham campaigns underway on Tuesday.

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