French interest in the China Open women’s title ended on the opening day of the tournament yesterday, with both Kristina Mladenovic and Alize Cornet crashing out in the first round.
Mladenovic fought back from a set down to come within reach of forcing 12th seed Carla Suarez Navarro to a third-set tiebreak, but the Spaniard eventually claimed victory 6-2, 3-6, 7-5.
Suarez Navarro is to face German Mona Barthel in the second round of the dual ATP and WTA event, which is being played at Beijing’s Olympic Park.
Cornet retired injured in the first set of her match with Francesca Schiavone, with the score 3-2 in the Italian’s favor.
Schiavone potentially faces a tough task in the second round, facing either Russia’s Elena Vesnina or the top seed, the US’ Serena Williams.
Meanwhile, the US’ Sloane Stephens cruised through to the second round, claiming victory over Canada’s Aleksandra Wozniak 6-4, 6-4.
The 12th seed and US No. 2 is to face Slovakia’s Magdalena Rybarikova in her next game.
Elsewhere, tenth seed Roberta Vinci beat Elina Svitolina 6-2, 6-2 to book her place in the second round.
The Italian’s victory earned her a tie against either Zhang Shuai or her Chinese compatriot Peng Shuai.
The China Open began yesterday and will reach its climax on Oct. 6.
Eight of the top 10 women’s players are in the draw.
The men’s competition is at the qualification stage.
On Friday, top men’s player Novak Djokovic was humbled by women’s No. 5 Li Na in a light-humored charity match, battling both the home crowd favorite and rules that were heavily in her favor.
As Asia’s first singles Grand Slam winner, 2011 French Open champion Li is used to breaking barriers in a sport she has pioneered in China.
However, with the 31-year-old giving herself an advantage of at least 30-0 in the five games she played against Serbia’s Djokovic, the light-hearted match never threatened to slip from her grasp — despite the 3-2 scoreline.
Li and Djokovic traded shots, as well as well-mannered banter across the nets, in the match that was watched by 12,000 spectators at the end of an evening of friendly competition between the pair at Beijing’s Olympic Park.
The exhibition match was organized to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the China Open, where qualifying matches were being played earlier on Friday.
The sport’s original inter-gender contest was played 40 years ago between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, and King won.
Meanwhile, former China Open champion Agnieszka Radwanska said yesterday that she would aim to emulate her 2011 success, brushing aside concerns over pressure on the opening day of the tournament.
The Polish world No. 4 is seeded third in Beijing and arrives on the back of winning the Korea Open last week, before crashing out of the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo in the quarter-finals on Thursday.
The 24-year-old is up against a strong women’s field in China, including Victoria Azarenka, the world No. 2 and reigning China Open champion.
However, Radwanska said she was relaxed despite the tough competition, particularly as she had already booked her place in the US$6 million end-of-season grand finale, next month’s WTA Championships in Istanbul, which features the top eight women’s players.
“I’m always very, very happy that I still can be one of the top seeds here,” she told reporters in Beijing. “It’s never easy here, so I am just really trying not to think about any pressure, especially that I made the qualifying already for Istanbul.”
“[I’m] just going to try to play my best tennis here and try to win it again,” she added.
Radwanska faces Switzerland’s Stefanie Voegele in her opening game at the tournament, with organizers yet to announce when it will be played.