It was a day of shocks at the OEC Taipei WTA Challenger yesterday, with three of the top four seeds in the singles losing their first-round matches at the Taipei Arena.
Top seed Kimiko Date-Krumm went down in three sets to 254th-ranked Russian qualifier Valeria Solovyeva, No. 3 seed Zhang Shuai retired from her match against Katarzyna Piter of Poland after the first game of the second set and Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan downed fourth seed Ayumi Morita in a thriller earlier in the day.
Solovyeva beat Date-Krumm 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 in a match in which her opponent was one break point away from taking a 5-2 lead in the final set.
The Japanese veteran failed to take it, though, and subsequently dropped successive service games, leaving Solovyeva to serve for the match. Date-Krumm saved one match point, but hit a forehand long on the second to exit the tournament.
“I had a chance today, was 4-2 up [in the final set],” Date-Krumm said. “I was missing something special. The season has almost finished and it’s difficult to keep motivated ... but of course she [Solovyeva] played very well today.”
The Japanese 43-year-old was non-committal on how long she thought she would carry on at the top level, but said she still enjoyed playing and remained fit.
“Already, I decide to play at the beginning of [next] year, so we will see,” the former world No. 4 said. “I don’t know how many years I can continue, but every year, of course, it’s very, very tough.”
In the first match of the day on Centre Court, Shvedova bounced back to beat Morita in a thrilling three-set battle that had the crowd on the edge of their seats.
The world No. 81 claimed a 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-3 victory over the Japanese No. 4 seed in a contest that contained play of the highest quality, with some excellent shot-making and impressive returns.
Morita won the first set without dropping her serve, but Shvedova had shown she would be no pushover and immediately broke her opponent in the first game of the second set.
The 23-year-old from Japan broke back in the fourth game, before holding her serve in a marathon fifth game, surviving eight break points.
The players exchanged breaks once more before the set went to a tiebreak in which Moscow-born Shvedova was never behind.
The third set was evenly poised until Morita — the 2011 champion at the Taipei Arena and a finalist in 2009 and 2010 — found herself facing three break points in the eighth game, the last of which Shvedova took when the world No. 61 sent a backhand long.
An ace in the next game gave Shvedova three match points and she claimed the 2 hour, 32 minute marathon with a forehand winner on the first of them.
Not long after Morita’s demise China’s No. 3 seed Zhang also crashed out, retiring from her match against Piter of Poland having lost the first set.
Date-Krumm, Morita and Zhang joined No. 6 seed Caroline Garcia and fifth seed Kurumi Nara, who both lost on Tuesday, and No. 8 seed Ajla Tomljanovic, who was beaten on Monday, in making early exits from the tournament.
In yesterday’s other first-round match, No. 7 seed Misaki Doi of Japan cruised past Israel’s Julia Glushko 6-2, 6-0 in 52 minutes.
In the day’s two second-round showdowns, Alison van Uytvanck of Belgium defeated Russia’s Alla Kudryavtseva 6-2, 6-4, while China’s Zheng Saisai beat Anna Schmiedlova of Slovakia 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
In the doubles, Taiwan’s Chan Chin-wei reached the second round after teaming up with Xu Yifan of China to down Stephanie Dubois of Canada and Dinah Pfizenmaier of Germany 6-2, 6-3, while the Chan sisters, Yung-jan and Hao-ching, the No. 2 seeds, were knocked out 6-2, 6-4 by Anna-Lena Friedsam of Germany and Belgium’s Van Uytvanck.