Riske Advances To Second Round In Connecticut Open

Camila Giorgi of Italy advanced to the second round of the Connecticut Open with a victory over Coco Vandeweghe. (Stan Godlewski)

NEW HAVEN — Alison Riske knew she was supposed to play it close to the vest.

The young American, who grew up in Pittsburgh, had just won her first-round match Sunday at the Connecticut Open and needed to move on, but she just couldn't. Not yet.

"That was a huge deal for me as much as I would like to say it wasn't," Riske said.

Riske, the last American standing in the field, defeated Casey Dellacqua of Australia 6-1, 6-4 on the Stadium court to advance to the second round at Yale.

"Obviously, [Dellacqua] is a great competitor," Riske said. "I felt like I played my game ultimately and that is what makes me most happy."

Riske will play Flavia Pennetta of Italy in the next round. Pennetta beat Klara Koukalova of the Czech Republic 6-1, 6-3 on Sunday.

After struggling to make any sustained tournament runs early in the season, Riske says she is playing better and with more confidence. And Sunday, it certainly appeared that way.

Dellacqua broke Riske's serve in the first game, but Riske responded promptly, winning the next six games.

"I definitely was a little nervous [to start]," Riske said.

In the second game, Riske and Dellacqua were tied at 4. Again, Riske responded. She broke the 30th-ranked Dellacqua's serve and took the final game.

"Just getting aggressive has gotten me to this point," Riske said.

Riske, ranked 43rd in the world, advanced to the second round of the Connecticut Open last season and went on to upset Petra Kvitova in the third round of the U.S. Open. She is hoping she can continue to build momentum this week.

"I really do love it, it is one of my favorite stops this year," Riske said. "I'm just focusing on playing aggressive and going after my opponents."

She'll need that plan in the next round against Pennetta, who is ranked 14th.

"[Riske] is in a place where she plays good and likes to play," Pennetta said. "Of course, she is going to be really tough. She is a good fighter. We've never played against each other. It is going to be a good match."

The Italian got off to a strong start against Koukalova and never looked to be in trouble.

"I was just focused from the beginning," Pennetta said. "I tried to play really aggressive and be really close to the baseline because sometimes when you lose court to her, you just run and she kills you. I just tried to be really really aggressive and she didn't serve well."

Pennetta capped the victory with two straight aces.

"[Koukalova] is a really good player and you never know what she is going to do with the game. She can change every angle in every moment," Pennetta said. "I was a little bit nervous because I know her and know how she plays. She can do everything. I think she is one of the most talented players in the tournament. ... I went for a point [on those serves] and tried to hit hard and end the rally. That was important."

Pennetta won at Indian Wells in March but did not come to Connecticut with high expectations, she said. She lost in Montreal on August 4 to qualifier Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan and was beaten by Serena Williams in the round of 16 at the Western & Southern Open in Ohio.

"After Indian Wells, I played good but not that much," Pennetta said. "I didn't win a lot of matches. I was playing one match here and one match there. But I didn't have two or three wins in a row. Last week was a good week for me because I played a lot better."

Pennetta is also hoping to gain some momentum for the U.S. Open.

"I'm just trying to play my game and relax a little," Pennetta said.

Ekaterina Makarova of Russia will face Kvitova in the second round after beating Italy's Roberta Vinci, 6-3, 6-3.

Camila Giorgi of Italy eliminated the other American in the field, Coco Vandeweghe, 6-3, 6-1. Vandeweghe took an early lead in the first set, but Giorgi rallied to win five straight games. In the second set, Giorgi won quickly with four aces.