Holder Caroline Wozniacki survived a tough challenge to begin her title defense of the ATP-WTA China Open yesterday, with the top seed stretched to the limit in a win over Lucie Hradecka 3-6, 6-0, 7-5.
Wozniacki — the top-ranked player on the WTA Tour, but without a Grand Slam crown — has had a patchy few months, winning a minor pre-US Open title, stalling in the semi-finals of the New York major and then crashing to a second-round loss last week in Tokyo.
“It wasn’t a pretty match, but I’m through,” the top seed said after reaching the second round. “That’s what’s most important.”
Beijing is a special place for the Dane, winner of six titles this season, who first took over the top ranking in the Chinese capital a year ago.
“It’s been a year now that I’m No. 1, it’s an amazing feeling. It’s something I’ve always practiced for and tried to achieve. Over the last few tournaments of the season, I want to finish off well,” she said.
Wary of the first-round upset loss of French Open winner Li Na of China, Wozniacki made sure she came through for victory over her 49th-ranked opponent from the Czech Republic, but not before dropping the first set. However, the 21-year-old belatedly came good, ignoring nine aces from her opponent.
Wozniacki broke six times on her way to victory and a meeting with Australian Jarmila Gajdosova.
In other first-round matches, Zheng Jie earned a welcome home win as she beat Italian Alberta Brianti 4-6, 6-1, 7-5, while Russia’s Maria Kirilenko, the 2005 winner, beat Germany’s Julia Goerges 7-6 (11/9), 6-3. Virginie Razzano of France reached the second round by beating Argentine Gisela Dulko 6-2, 6-3.
Austrian Tamira Paszek booked the first of the third-round places with her defeat of Petra Cetkovska of the Czech Republic 1-6, 6-4, 6-2. Seventh seed and former Roland Garros champion Francesca Schiavone of Italy went out to Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 6-2.
In the women’s doubles, Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Galina Voskoboeva of Kazakhstan defeated Russia’s Vera Dushevina and Shahar Peer of Israel 6-4, 6-3. Slovakia’s Daniela Hantuchova and Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, the No. 8 seeds, beat Taiwan’s Chuang Chia-Jung and Olga Govortsova of Belarus 7-6 (7/5), 6-1.
In men’s first-round play, four Europeans advanced.
Croatia’s former top 10 regular Marin Cilic, now standing 25th, defeated China’s Wu Di 6-2, 6-0, while Spain’s Feliciano Lopez put out Turkey’s Marsel Ilhan 6-2, 7-6 (8/6). Spaniard Fernando Verdasco defeated Michael Llodra of France 6-2, 6-4.
Florian Mayer of Germany, playing his first match since winning the Bucharest title on clay eight days ago, made a successful change of surface to the hard courts, taking out Spaniard Albert Ramos 6-2, 6-4.
“I feel my form is rising since July. I’ve had some really good tournaments and good wins against top players, so I’m feeling confident,” Cilic said.
“I played well today and I’m looking forward for my next match. It won’t be easy, but I hope I’m going to be 100 percent ready,” he said of his next match against either second seed Gael Monfils or Italy’s Fabio Fognini.
? JAPAN OPEN
Fourth seed Mardy Fish of the US defeated fellow American Ryan Harrison 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 in their first-round match at the Japan Open yesterday.
Fish relied on his serve-and-volley game to outlast his compatriot in a battle that took 2 hours, 44 minutes at Ariake Colosseum.
Harrison put up a valiant fight, displaying a blistering forehand throughout the match, but leading 5-4 in the final set he saw Fish win his service game to level, then he was broken in the next game.
Fish closed out the match on serve with a forehand winner after Harrison had staved off two match points.
Fish prevailed despite committing a high number of unforced errors in the contest.
Fish was impressed by his 19-year-old opponent, who had to qualify for the main draw.
“He’s a strong player and I think he will be a top player in the future,” Fish said.
Earlier, seventh seed Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic beat Somdev Devvarman of India 6-4, 6-3 in their first-round match.
Stepanek and Devvarman exchanged breaks in the first set, before Stepanek broke the Indian again in the 10th game to take the set.
Devvarman broke Stepanek in the opening game of the second set and moved out to a 3-1 lead, but Stepanek then reeled off five straight games to take the match in 1 hour, 32 minutes.
Qualifier Matthew Ebden of Australia downed Pablo Andujar of Spain 6-7 (4/7), 6-4, 6-4 in the day’s other first-round match.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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