Australians in cruise control at Wuhan Open

Shine
Australia's Ashleigh Barty and Daria Gavrilova brushed aside their first-round opponents at the Wuhan Open yesterday.
Shine
AFP

Wang Qiang of China serves against Maria Sakkari of Greece during their second-round match at the WTA Wuhan Open in Wuhan, central Hubei Province, yesterday. Wang won 7-5, 6-2.

Australia's top two brushed aside their first-round opponents at the Wuhan Open yesterday, with straight-sets victories in the US$2.7-million tournament for both Ashleigh Barty and Daria Gavrilova.

Barty, the Australian No. 1, downed Britain’s Johanna Konta 7-5, 6-4 to progress, and could face Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber of Germany in the third round.

But it was Gavrilova, the Australian No. 2, who caused the biggest upset in Wuhan, central China’s Hubei Province, so far, dumping out 10th-seed and last year’s French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 6-4.

The Latvian, who reached the Wuhan semifinals last year, mounted a spirited fightback in the second set but was unable to contain her unforced errors and appeared frustrated as Gavrilova held steady to secure the win.

Ostapenko “is a quality player, she always fights and comes (out) firing... so I expected that”, Gavrilova said after the match.

It has been a September to forget for Ostapenko, ranked 12th in the world.

Last week, her defense of the Korea Open title was ended in the second round by then-122nd-ranked Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia.

World No. 33 Gavrilova next faces Czech Barbora Strycova, who beat Alize Cornet of France 6-3, 6-2.

Home favorite Wang Qiang surprised Greece’s in-form Maria Sakkari 7-5, 6-2 to set up a second-round clash with Czech Karolina Pliskova, who downed US Open champion Naomi Osaka in straight sets in Tokyo on Sunday to win the Pan Pacific title.

Nine of the world’s top 10 are in action at the Wuhan Open as the 2018 WTA season enters its final stretch and the frenzy for ranking points intensifies. Japanese star Osaka, the current No.8, had to withdraw due to illness.

In addition to US$500,000 in prize money, the winner will also lock down 900 points.

Also, Garbine Muguruza defeated Alison Van Uytvanck 6-4, 6-0, avenging a second-round loss to the Belgian at Wimbledon.

“I’m happy that I won this time. I remember the match from Wimbledon, like a very tough match for me,” said Muguruza, who had been the defending champion at the All England Club. “It’s always good to play again the same person that beat you, feeling good you did something much better than the previous match.”

Muguruza will next face Swiss qualifier Viktorija Golubic, who defeated Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain 6-3, 5-7, 6-4.

An ankle injury forced American Coco Vandeweghe to retire in the third set against Donna Vekic. Croatia’s Vekic faces Anett Kontaveit of Estonia next.

World No. 1 Simona Halep of Romania, scheduled play Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova today, faces a struggle to be fit after suffering a back problem while training on Monday.

“I don’t know why it happened. It’s been a difficult 24 hours, but I hope to be ready tomorrow,” Halep said.

Other winners yesterday included Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, Serbia’s Aleksandra Krunic, China’s Wang Xiyu and American Madison Keys, who defeated another home player Wang Yafan 6-3, 6-3.

Special Reports
Top