SHENZHEN, December 31, 2018
Top seed Aryna Sabalenka and No.5 seed Maria Sharapova got their new seasons off to a winning start here at the Shenzhen Open today, as three of the top seven seeds succumbed to surprise first round defeats.
Fresh off a momentous season that saw her climb more than 60 spots in the rankings and win her first two career titles at New Haven and Wuhan, world No.13 Sabalenka overcame a one set deficit to defeat German Tatjana Maria 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 in one hour and 51 minutes.
The hard-hitting 20-year-old Belarusian, who also made the finals at Eastbourne and Lugano last year, saved five of nine break points and converted seven out of eleven to ensure she started the new season on a victorious note.
Former world No.1 Sharapova, playing in front of a capacity Centre Court crowd that braved chilly conditions of ten degrees Celsius to catch her in action, put on a strong showing in her 6-2, 7-6(3) victory over Swiss Timea Bacsinszky in one hour and 41 minutes.
Returning to action at Shenzhen after ending her 2018 season in September to address a shoulder injury, the 31-year-old got off to a shaky start when she lost her first service game to go 0-2 down. However, the tournament fifth seed and current world No. 29 rallied by winning the next six games on the trot to take the first set.
The second set was a back and forth encounter, with both players notching three break points each in the first nine games of the set, but it was Sharapova that grew in confidence in the tie-break, breaking her former world No.9 opponent three times and only relinquishing her serve once.
“After being away for a few months and feeling a little bit rusty, I think I had a tricky opponent and probably some of the coldest conditions I could have asked for coming off a shoulder injury. So I think with all those things against me, I performed as best as I could and I got the win and it sets me up well for the rest of the tournament,” said the Russian after her victory.
In today’s opening match on Centre Court, two-time Shenzhen Open losing finalist Alison Riske caused the first upset of the day as she defeated tournament third seed Wang Qiang 6-3, 6-3 in one hour and 35 minutes.
In a tight match peppered with long rallies, it was the 28-year-old Riske that kept her cool when it mattered and took her chances when it counted, converting five out of six break points she created and saving six of the eight break points she faced.
This is the second year in a row that the unseeded world No.62 Riske has knocked a seeded Wang out of the Shenzhen Open first round.
The trend continued when Serbian qualifier Ivana Jorovic notched the biggest victory of her career this afternoon as she swept past the No.2 seed Caroline Garcia of France, winning 6-4, 6-2 in one hour and 30 minutes.
The 21-year-old Jorovic fashioned a total of 13 break points during the match, converting three of eight in the first set and three of five in the second set to knock out her world No.19 ranked opponent and secure her first victory over a Top 20 player.
“I’m definitely pleased and I’m really happy with my game today. I’m so happy to be in Shenzhen again. I worked really hard in pre-season – they killed me and I was crying but it was a good thing that I did it. I had a good talk with my coach and he told me what to do and I think I did really good,” said a jubilant Jorovic, who picked up her 12th career ITF singles title at Shenzhen in early November
Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, who comes into the tournament at a career high of No.60 after making her first career final at Moscow in October, looks to be continuing her fine form into the new season. The 24-year-old knocked out No.7 seed Zhang Shuai 6-2, 6-3 in 59 minutes on Court 1 to move into the second round.
Meanwhile, seventeen-year-old wild card Wang Xinyu overcame a strong challenge from compatriot Xun Fang Ying to win 7-6(3), 6-4 in one hour and 37 minutes and book her maiden appearance in the second round of a Tour level tournament.
Another 21-year-old qualifier to make it into the second round was Veronika Kudermetova. The Russian rallied from a set down to defeat the 2018 Shenzhen Open semifinalist Irina-Camelia Begu 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(5) in a tense match lasting two hours and 17 minutes.
Ekaterina Alexandrova continued Russia’s dominance here at the Shenzhen Open with a comfortable 6-3, 6-4 victory over Slovenia’s Dalila Jakupovic in one hour and 18 minutes.
In today’s doubles first round action, the second seeded Chinese pair of Peng Shuai, a champion here in 2017 with Andrea Hlavackova, and Yang Zhaoxuan eased into the second round with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Spain’s Georgina Garcia Perez and Russia’s Kudermetova.
China’s Duan Ying-Ying and Renata Voracava of the Czech Republic also got off to winning ways, defeating the Romanian-Latvian pairing of Sorana Cirstea and Jelena Ostapenko 6-4, 7-6(8) in one hour and 32 minutes.