Sloane Stephens returns a shot during the women's singles first round match between Zhang Shuai of China and Sloane Stephens of the United States at the 2019 WTA Wuhan Open tennis tournament in Wuhan of central China's Hubei Province, on Sept. 22, 2019. (Xinhua/Xiong Qi)
By sportswriter Spencer Musick
WUHAN, China, Sept. 22 (Xinhua) -- All home players in singles action made for the exits here at day one of the main draw at the 2019 Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open.
The day started with American wildcard entry Venus Williams crashing out Open in the round of 64 here on Sunday, falling to world no. 35 Danielle Collins 7-5, 7-6 (5).
The match saw both players stumble at key moments that would have put the momentum solidly on their side. Collins served for the match twice in the second set only to see Williams claw her way back and eventually force a tiebreak to decide the second set.
It was a match that at times seemed to be painful for the players on either end of the court, with Collins questioning calls from the chair umpire and Williams vexed at several disturbances on the court during the first set.
Collins has a tough match set up for her in the round of 32 against 2018 Wuhan Open champ Arnya Sabalenka, who needed only one hour and six minutes to dispatch fellow Belarussian Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-1, 6-2.
Sabalenka has a reputation as a powerhouse server and that was certainly the case today. She logged 78 percent shooting on her first service points and managed to save every single one of her break points.
Sabalenka dominated the proceedings on court from the word 'go.' Eight of the first 10 game points went her way, and her powerful serves pushed her opponent around the court with ease.
The second set was nearly a repeat of the first, with Sabalenka holding all of her service games and breaking her compatriot twice to wrap up her second win against a fellow Belarussian in the past month.
Earlier in the day it was also an easy win for Polona Hercog of Slovenia, who dispatched American Jessica Pegula 6-0, 6-1 in less than one hour. Next up for Hercog is Petra Kvitova, who received a bye into round 2.
Another player who cruised to victory was 2017 Wuhan champ Caroline Garcia of Spain, who converted five of her seven break points and was only broken once herself on the way to an easy 6-2, 6-2 win over Daria Kasatkina of Russia.
Kasatkina logged some truly unfortunate shooting on serve in this match, spitting out 11 double faults. It wasn't much better for her on return; she never took her Spanish opponent to break point in the second set.
Other action during the day saw Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine log a fairly straightforward 7-6 (5), 6-2 win over Australian Ajla Tomljanovic, while Bernarda Pera won a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 all-American derby against Jennifer Brady. Up next for Pera is 6th seed Kiki Bertens, who received a bye into round two.
Local qualifier Zhu Lin was in action in the afternoon session, and despite taking a set, was not able to overcome strong serving from wildcard entry Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan in a 7-5, 2-6, 6-0 loss.
The first set was a battle of attrition, with both players holding their services to 4-all, and it was Zhu who got the first break, but Rybakina responded with two breaks of her own and held on to take the set. Rybakina converted every one of her break points and fired four aces on the way to the win.
The evening session saw another local hopeful Zhang Shuai fall to No. 10 seed Sloane Stephens of the United States, 7-5, 6-4. Stephens put up an agressive service game and controlled shots well from the baseline, but Zhang was quite strong on return, breaking first at 3-2.
An unforced error from Stephens allowed Zhang to go up 4-2, but Stephens turned it around and went on a run of points to hold her opponent to love at 5-5. She then went on to break Zhang's service and hold her own to take the set in a little under an hour.
Zhang was broken out of the gate in the second set, and despite getting a couple of breaks of her own, her strong defensive forehand shots throughout were not able to power her over an opponent that she had managed to crack in their last two meetings.
Zhang coughed up 11 more unforced errors than her American opponent, who will face the winner of tomorrow's match between anther home hopeful Wang Yafan and American qualifier Lauren Davis.
The late match on center court saw 18-year-old Chinese wildcard Wang Xiyu fall to Barbora Strycova in a 6-4, 6-2 match that was more hardly fought than the score line suggests.
Both players held serve as things got underway in the first set, and it was Wang who broke first to go up 3-1. Strycova pushed back hard, and the two traded breaks to go three all with the Czech pushing her opponent into uncomfortable territory for her near the service line.
At 5-4 in the first, the two fought back and forth at deuce before Strycova got a decisive third break of the set to put the momentum solidly on her side of the remainder of the match.
Next up for Strycova is Wimbledon champion and No. 4 seed Simona Halep, who received a bye into the second round.