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Cilic overcomes Dzumhur at Kremlin Cup in match of ex-champs


MOSCOW -- Marin Cilic began his bid for a third Kremlin Cup trophy by beating another former champion Damir Dzumhur 6-7 (4), 6-1, 6-1.

Cilic ended a three-match losing streak. He won in Moscow in 2014 and 2015.

Dzumhur won here in 2017. But this weekend he came through qualifying to play his first main draw match on tour since July.

Cilic earned his 19th tour-level title on Stuttgart grass in June and, at No. 6, was the only men’s seed in action on Monday. The leading seeds were all locals; Andry Rublev, champion of the last Kremlin Cup in 2019, Aslan Karatsev, and Karen Khachanov, the 2018 champ.

On the women’s side, Alja Tomljanovic of Australia spoiled the main draw debut of Liudmila Samsonova in her home event by winning 6-2, 6-4.

Tomljanovic set up a second-round match with top-seeded Aryna Sabalenka, who received a wild card to play her first tournament since reaching the U.S. Open semifinals.

The Aussie has a win over Sabalenka in her past and brings some form to their fifth career matchup after downing Garbine Muguruza last week at Indian Wells. Muguruza is at the other end of the draw this week as the second seed.

Former champion and regular threat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova had a bye as one of the top four seeds, and learned her second-round match will be against Bernarda Pera, the American who defeated Aliaksandra Krunic of Serbia 7-6 (3), 6-3.

Another Russian, Anna Kalinskaya, beat Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine 7-6 (5), 6-4 and will meet fifth-seeded Maria Sakkari for the first time.