Maja Chwalinska was the first Pole to win a match in this year’s BNP Paribas Poland Open, defeating Rebeka Masarova 7-5 6-2 on Monday. The Pole received a wild card to the main draw, making her debut at the WTA 250 level. She wasn’t able to compete in the 2021 edition, at the time taking a break due to suffering from depression. Chwalinska is doing much better this year, finding herself at a career-high World No. 162 in the WTA Rankings.
“I think the first set was very arrhythmic. This is the first time I’m switching from grass to clay, so I had some trouble doing that and finding my rhythm. I’m happy to have won and got an opportunity, probably on Wednesday, to play another match and I hope it will be better.” said the Pole in the post-match press conference. Her rival had to complete the last two sets of her final qualifying round a few hours earlier (it was suspended due to darkness with the Spaniard down 4-6 to Tena Lukas on Sunday). Chwalinska is definitely not the type of player you want to face when you’re a bit tired. Her slices, dropshots, and constant rhythm changes require precise footwork from the opponents, forcing them to bend the knees low and stay on full alert.
While the stands weren’t full yet as they probably will be when Chwalinska’s friend Iga Swiatek shows up on Wednesday, many local fans came to the Legia Tenis & Golf Club to support the first home country representative competing in the main draw. “I’m very happy that I can play in front of the Polish crowd. I always liked playing here, I feel huge support and I’m very grateful for that. Competing with a crowd like that behind you is pure pleasure.”
Masarova had beaten Chwalinska earlier in the year at a 125K WTA event. The Spaniard was able to hit through the court much more effectively than on Monday at Warsaw, taking it 6-1 7-5. “Both matches were very up-and-down. Here I was able to concentrate on myself and the things I can control, extend the rallies, and be patient. Compared to the match in Valencia, I succeded in that. I think I wasn’t patient enough there.”
Experience from London to pay off in the future?
Chwalinska recently made headlines at Wimbledon, qualifying and reaching the second round. It was her Grand Slam main draw debut and while it didn’t grant her ranking points, it was still an important moment in the life of the 20-year-old. “Wimbledon gave me some incredible experience. Everyone wants to play at a Grand Slam. I qualified and won the first round, so it was something great. I saw how the biggest tournaments function from the inside. I watched a lot of other players and I think I learned a lot. It should help my progress.” Her run in London also proved that even with a very unique playstyle and not much power, she’s capable of taking on higher-ranked opposition.
A winner of two ITF titles this season (60K Prague and 25K Monastir), Chwalinska has a great chance to seek a top 100 debut until the end of the year. Her ranking is built almost only on 2022 results as in the latter half of the previous season, the 20-year-old was struggling with injuries and depression. The Pole will now face either Petra Martic or Weronika Falkowska in the second round at Warsaw. Another win would probably bump her up to a spot in the top 150 already.
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