(Reuters) - Former world number one Karolina Pliskova overcame unseeded Varvara Lepchenko 6-2 6-7(3) 6-3 in her opening-round match at the Tianjin Open on Monday.
The 26-year-old Pliskova, who took a wildcard entry into the tournament as she aims to qualify for the season-ending WTA Finals in Singapore, eased through the first set but Lepchenko's aggressive forehand caused her problems in the second and the American won the tiebreaker to force a decider.
Lepchenko saved five match points on the back of some powerful groundstrokes but a solid first serve clinched Czech Pliskova's win after two-and-a-half hours.
Top seed Pliskova will next face Slovenian Polona Hercog, who beat Spain's Lara Arruabarrena 7-6(5) 6-2.
Pliskova is chasing one of the three available spots in the WTA Finals, along with fourth seed Aryna Sabalenka, Sloane Stephens, Elina Svitolina and Kiki Bertens.
(Reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond)