Tue, Sep 30, 2014 - Page 20 News List

Williams fights back in China, Cilic also through

AFP, BEIJING

US Open Champions Serena Williams and Marin Cilic powered through their openers at the US$5.4 million China Open yesterday, with the women’s No. 1 crushing her opponent after being 5-0 down.

Spaniard Silvia Soler-Espinosa looked to be cruising to a memorable victory against the power-hitting American in Beijing as she raced to a five-game advantage within 20 minutes.

However, Williams’ response was ruthless, taking seven consecutive games to clinch the set with an incredible show of force.

A startled Soler-Espinosa took two games in the following set, but the No. 1 seed in Beijing closed in on victory within 73 minutes with a 7-5, 6-2 scoreline.

It was a devastating comeback and a clear statement of intent from Williams, who fell at the first hurdle at the Wuhan Open last week after retiring from her game with a viral illness.

Williams revealed after her match in Beijing that she had undergone doubts about competing in the China Open, following her illness in Wuhan.

“I wasn’t sure if I was going to play or not,” the 33-year-old said. “You know, I just started hitting a couple days ago, taking it day by day. Finally I decided I’m here, I may as well see what happens. Here I am.”

The reigning champion in Beijing won her sixth US Open earlier this month, the 18th Grand Slam title of her career.

The queen of women’s tennis said she fought hard in her opening match in Beijing to avoid a “bagel” — a 6-0 set.

“I just didn’t want to lose — I didn’t want to lose six love,” she said. “I just started fighting. I was like — ‘Just let me at least try to break here.’”

Elsewhere in Beijing, seeds Lucie Safarova and Ana Ivanovic made it through their first-round matches.

Serb Ivanovic, a former world No. 1, defeated Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic 6-2, 6-1.

The ninth seed in Beijing will play another Swiss player, Romina Oprandi, in the second round.

Thirteenth seed Czech player Safarova beat Italian Camila Giorgi 7-6 (7/3) 6-4 in her opening match.

In the men’s competition, fourth seed Cilic did not drop a serve in his defeat of Chinese wildcard Yan Bai — but was brought to break point on his first two service games.

The Croatian, playing his first game since his convincing 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 victory over Japan’s Kei Nishikori in New York, took 81 minutes to dispose of his opponent 6-3, 6-4.

Afterward, he said he was still adjusting to playing competitively since his maiden Grand Slam victory.

“I felt that I was playing little bit better and better after the beginning,” Cilic said. “[I] was still a little bit rusty after a few weeks. Just to start the match, it was a bit different, different conditions.”

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