The best was saved for the last. After a day of mundane action and lopsided contests, China's Zi Yan showed tremendous grit to save three match points and oust eighth seed Maria Kirilenko in the first round of the WTA Tier II Bangalore Open on Tuesday night.
Yan, ranked 54 in the world, persisted to a 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-1 win over the glamorous Russian to earn a second round against Ukraine's Olga Savchuk.
Earlier in the day, seventh seed Vera Zvonareva survived Romanian qualifier Monica Niculescu 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 while India's challenge at the tournament officially ended when wildcard Isha Lakhani crashed out in the first round.
The Mumbai-based Lakhani was defeated by qualifier Agnes Szatmari 6-2, 6-2.
Yan, part of the generation being groomed for a medal haul at the Beijing Olympics later this year, frustrated Kirilenko with her unconventional style of play. Hitting double-handed on both sides, Yan soaked up the Russian's baseline prowess to emerge winner in long two hour 23-minute battle.
Having cruised through the first set, Kirilenko was given a tougher fight in the second. But the 21-year-old from Moscow had the match in her grasp when she won her first match point at 5-4 on Yan's serve.
"In the first set I could not get any rhythm on my game," said Yan, winner of two doubles Grand Slams. "The balls were jumping and I could not adjust to it. But in the second set I tried to use more spin, keep the ball longer in play. I was very nervous on the first match point, because it was on my serve. But I got through, I was very lucky today."
The players then traded breaks in the eleventh and twelfth games to push the set into the tie-breaker.
Kirilenko, winner of the Kolkata Open, again squandered a 6-4 lead in the tie-break.
Even as the errors shored up in the Russian's game, as she overhit the ball, Yan tightened hers. The Chinese girl didn't give any chances in the third set and used the momentum from the second set to overwhelm Kirilenko in the end.
"She made a lot of unforced errors in the end. I don't know if she was tired or frustrated, she missed a lot of balls in the third set."
The break point on the sixth game, summed Yan's spirit, coming back into the point, as she ran end to end, made a defensive volley and finally hit a cross court winner to go up 5-1.
Singles - First Round
Zi Yan (CHN) d. (8) Maria Kirilenko (RUS) 3-6, 7-6, 6-1; (7) Vera Zvonareva (RUS) d. (Q) Monica Niculescu (ROU) 4-6 6-3 6-1; Peng Shuai (CHN) d. Anne Kremer (LUX) 6-1 6-2; Olga Savchuk (UKR) d. Katie O'Brien (GBR) 6-4 2-6 7-5; Sanda Mamic (CRO) d. Chan Yung-Jan (TPE) 6-2 6-2; Anastasia Rodionova (RUS) d. (Q) Sun Tiantian (CHN) 4-6 7-6(2) 6-4; Tzipora Obziler (ISR) d. (Q) Angelika Bachmann (GER) 6-2 6-3; (Q) Agnes Szatmari (ROU) d. (WC) Isha Lakhani (IND) 6-2 6-2
Doubles - First Round
(4) Rodionova/Shvedova (RUS/RUS) d. Adamczak/Rao (AUS/IND) 6-0 6-1; Ji/S.Sun (CHN/CHN) d. Bachmann/Feys (GER/BEL) 2-6 7-5 10-7; (WC) Williams/Williams (USA/USA) d. Ehritt-Vanc/Tanasugarn (ROU/THA) 7-6(5) 6-4