Iveta Benesova sure knows how to turn things around. The last time the Czech player took on U.S. Open finalist Mary Pierce, Benesova said she played so badly winning just three games, that she "felt like a ballboy." On Thursday, Benesova, wearing a skimpy low-slung skirt and halter top, upset fifth-seeded Pierce 6-3, 7-5 in a second-round match at the Australian Open.
She'll now play three-time Australian Open champion Martina Hingis in the third round on Saturday. Hingis continued her impressive return after a three-year retirement with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Finland's Emma Laine later Thursday. Benesova, 22, took her opportunities from the outset, racing to a 5-0 lead and converting on the only two break points she had in the first set.
Pierce, the 1995 Australian Open champion, rallied to take the next three games, but Benesova served out the set when Pierce dumped an easy backhand into the net.
Benesova described the win as the biggest in her eight-year professional career. "I remember I played her a year ago (last February) in Antwerp and I won three games," Benesova said. "I felt like a ballboy on the court because she was hitting winners everywhere. "Today she was totally different. She gave me the chances from the beginning, and she was missing a lot. It wasn't her day."
The pair exchanged breaks of serve to open the second set, but mistakes continued to hamper Pierce, who described her performance as the first "bad match" she had played since April 2005. Pierce, 31, also made the final at the French Open last year, moving from No. 29 in the rankings to five and winning two tournaments. She has had to endure ankle, shoulder and thigh injuries, among others, in her career.
"She played solid. She came up with some really good shots at times," said Pierce. "It's difficult. I didn't give her a chance to play much, as well. If you make 41 unforced errors, it's really tough to win a match." Pierce had set points on serve in the second set after breaking Benesova in the eighth game to take a 5-3 lead, but missed crosscourt drives off both the forehand and backhand sides allowed the Czech back into the set.
"I felt confident in the second set when I went ahead," said Pierce. "I thought I was going to win the second set, then felt pretty confident if I did that I would win the match in the third. A bit surprised ... that didn't happen." Benesova broke again on Pierce's next service game for a 6-5 lead and closed out with a courageous backhand drop shot her first of the match, reports the AP. N.U.
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