By sportswriter Spencer Musick
WUHAN, China, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) -- Round one action drew to a close at the 2019 Donfeng Motor Wuhan Open tennis tournament here on Monday, with a pair of notable top flight exits.
Action on center court started with a three-set showdown where Tunisian Ons Jabeur who replaced Victoria Azarenka after she withdrew from competition due to a shoulder injury, knocked out 16th seed Donna Vekic of Croatia 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. Jabeur fired 32 winners to only 18 for Vekic on the way to the victory sealed in just under two hours.
Jabeur next faces Elena Rybakina, who won her first-round match against Chinese qualifier Zhu Lin on Sunday.
The day session also saw world no. 18 Caroline Wozniacki falling to No. 32 Hsieh Su Wei of Chinese Taipei in three sets: 7-6 (2), 1-6, 2-6 in their round-one clash.
Hsieh looked to be down and out at the end of the first set, with Wozniacki breaking twice and firing off five aces on her way to serving for it at 5-1, only to watch that lead evaporate as her opponent responded with two breaks of her own to level it 5-all. Hsieh then held serve for the rest of the set to force a tiebreak, which Wozniacki was able to win with ease.
Things turned sour for Wozniacki in the second; she was broken twice on the way to Hsieh sealing it in just 32 minutes, and it was a similar story in the third; she faced two breaks while never taking her opponent to break point in a meltdown that left her visibly rattled.
Up next for Hsieh is Russian qualifier Svetlana Kuznetsova, who moved to the second round due to opponent Yulia Putinseva retiring after one set.
Monica Puig of Puerto Rico upset another player in the top tier, winning a rematch of her 2016 Rio Olympic final paring against German Angelique Kerber in straight sets, 7-6 (5), 5-7, 6-1.
Puig played a very aggressive baseline game that proved to be a high risk, high reward strategy against Kerber, firing off 56 winners to almost as many (51) unforced errors over the course of the grueling two hour 49 minute showdown.
Puig served for the match in the second set at 5-4, only to start coughing up unforced errors at the worst possible time, with Kerber taking her to break point twice on the way to converting to level it the scoreboard 5-all.
Thankfully for Puig, things came back together in the decider; she broke Kerber three times on the way to sealing the victory.
Next up for Puig is American Alison Riske, who needed three sets to subdue Ukrainian qualifier Kateryna Kozlova 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.
Another top flight player out of action is world No. 13 Madison Keys of the United States, who announced on Twitter this morning that she was withdrawing from the tournament due to a foot injury.
That meant that Camila Giorgi took on Swedish lucky loser Rebecca Petterson in the round of 64, and she ended up taking an early exit herself after dropping the first set 6-2. Next up for Petterson is world No. 22 Croatian Petra Martic, who cruised to a straight-set 6-2, 6-2 win over Kristina Mladenovic of France Monday.
In the day session on court one saw Chinese world No. 48 Wang Yafan outlast American qualifier Lauren Davis, who retired in the deciding third set after the pair split the first two 4-6, 6-4. Wang will face another American, Sloane Stephens, in the second round.
In other action on side courts in the day session, an all-Russian derby between qualifier Veronika Kudermetova and Ekaterina Alexandrova and took three sets to decide: 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 in Kudermetova's favor. She next faces world No. 10 Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, who received a bye into round two.
Another qualifier, Christina McHale of the United States, came back from a set down to upset Latvian No. 14 Anastasija Sevastova 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. McHale next faces Daria Yastremska of Ukraine in round two.
Australian Samantha Stosur managed to force a decider but was unable to overcome American world No. 29 Amanda Anisimova, who won 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in just under two hours. Anisimova next faces world No. 2 Karolina Pliskova, who received a bye into round 2.
In the evening session on court one, world No. 17 Sofia Kenin of the United States took down Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in straight sets, 6-2, 7-6 (5). Next up for Kenin is Kenin Elise Mertens of Belgium, who logged a straight-set 6-4, 6-0 victory over Katerina Sinikova of the Czech Republic earlier in the day.
Next on court one, Czech Marie Bouzkova took out Slovenian lucky loser Tamera Zidansek in straight sets, 6-1, 6-3. Next up for Bouzkova is home favorite and current world No. 16 Wang Qiang, who received a bye into round two.
In the evening session on center court, home hopeful Peng Shuai was beaten handily by Spaniard Garbine Muguruza in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2 in one hour 10 minutes. Muguruza fired off seven aces, converting each one of her break points and saving all that she faced. She will go on to play world No. 3 Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, who received a bye into round 2.
The late games on center court saw round of 32 action get underway, with 5th-seeded Petra Kvitova defeating Polona Hercog of Slovenia 7-6 (6), 6-3. It was a battle of attrition in the first set, with both players holding serve to 6-all, taking the set to a tiebreak that Hercog was able to serve for but not seal the deal, smashing her racking in frustration and receiving a warning from the chair.
And the night wrapped up with defending champion Arnya Sabalenka clinically tearing apart American Danielle Collins from the baseline, winning 16 of her 22 first service points and firing seven aces on the way to an easy 6-1, 6-0 rout.