Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan and Japan’s Ayumi Morita both slumped to surprise first-round straight-set defeats at the WTA event in Birmingham on Monday.
Neither 10th seed Hsieh nor Morita, seeded 11, put up much resistance as the former went down 6-2, 6-3 to American Jamie Hampton and the latter 6-4, 6-0 against Alison van Uytvanck of Belgium.
There was further disappointment for the Asian interest in the tournament — a warm-up for Wimbledon, which gets underway in two weeks — as veteran Kimiko Date Krumm of Japan bowed out 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) against Russia’s Alla Kudryavtseva.
Hampton’s performance was particularly eye-catching because it was only the third ever game on grass for the 23-year-old, who came to the tournament on the back of an impressive last-16 showing at the French Open.
“It was the first time I ever played this tournament and one of my first times on grass, so I’m still kind of getting used to it and used to the movement,” Hampton said. “But I thought it was a good match for me. She’s [Hsieh] really tough on grass because her ball stays really low. I served well when I needed to and played good, aggressive tennis in the second set.”
However, it was not all good news for the US challenge as defending champion Melanie Oudin, who came through qualifying last year to win the title, crashed out by the score of 6-3, 6-1 against Croatia’s former world junior No. 4 Ajla Tomljanovic.
It was a welcome win for the 20-year-old, who had to come through qualifying herself after taking a break, having suffered two bouts of mononucleosis last year.
Her illness is not uncommon among tennis players, with former French Open finalist Robin Soderling having been hit by it.
“Physically, I’m still not quite where I want to be yet, but I’m getting stronger with every tournament,” Tomljanovic said.
“It’s a horrible illness and lots of players, like Mario Ancic, have been forced out of tennis because of it,” Tomljanovic added. “I actually talked to Mario’s brother and he said not to rush back. It ended up being my smartest decision to take the rest of the season off and just to prepare for 2013.”