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Chinese players move into second round of 2018 Wuhan Open, Stephens crashes out
By sportswriters Spencer Musick and Michael Butterworth
WUHAN, China, Sept. 23 -- The first round here at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open got underway on Sunday with both Chinese players in action advancing, and concluded with a major top-flight casualty.
The day started with Chinese wildcard Zheng Saisai taking out American qualifier Danielle Collins in the opening match on center court.
Collins took the first set with ease and it appeared at one point as if the Chinese wild card might have been in trouble.
But Zheng, the number three Chinese player, wrestled back control of the proceedings on the court from the second set.
Zheng was able to keep her composure on the way to a 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory to move into the second round.
The next match on center court saw 11th seeded German Julia Georges move into round two, moving past Czech lucky loser Marketa Vondrousova in a three-set affair, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (4).
World No. 40 Zhang Shuai delighted home fans with an easy 6-2, 6-2 victory over her US Open Doubles partner and Australian wildcard entry Samantha Stosur.
Zhang was in control of the match from the outset, storming to a 3-0 lead out of the gate and keeping her opponent moving around the court with solid, by-the-book shooting from the baseline.
Later in the first set, Stosor showed a few signs of life, making the score 2-4 with a terrific forehand volley at the net. But Zhang replied with some good shots of her own, sticking to the baseline and forcing Stosor to lunge for impossible returns.
Stosur showed inconsistency on serve throughout the match, committing two double faults and winning only 40 percent of her service points.
Zhang later remarked that her familiarity with Stosor's style of play helped her win the match.
"I think we know each other so much, we play doubles together, we [are] training together. Even two days ago before the draw [was] out, we practiced. So I think we know each other very well," she remarked.
Zhang added that she found it easy to anticipate her opponent's moves.
"Sometimes before she hit, I already got a feeling (where she was sending the ball). I try to don't think [about] anything, just focus every point," Zhang said.
Zhang will face lucky loser Polana Herzog, who replaced world no. 7 and US Open Champion Naomi Osaka in the second round after she dropped out earlier today due to illness.
The late match on Sunday delivered a shock, as world No. 9 Sloane Stephens lost a hard-fought two hour thirty-three minute match against Estonian qualifier Anett Kontaveit, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4.
Stephens was shaky out of the gate, but some solid ground strokes powered her past the Estonian in the first set. The US Open champion couldn't maintain that momentum, and Kontaveit repeatedly fought her to deuce over the course of the next two sets, eventually condemning Stephens to a first round knockout.
In doubles action, Chinese wildcards Duan Ying Ying and Wang Yafan took out Belinda Bencic/ Alize Cornet in a rollercoaster ride of a 0-6, 7-6(2), 10-6 match. They will face Ashleigh Barty and Coco Vandeweghe, who received a bye into round two.
Another match of note saw Jelena Otapenko and Arnya Sabalenka take down Andreja Klepac and Maria Jose Sanchez in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2.
Round one of action continues here for most of the day tomorrow at the Optics Valley International Tennis Center, with the late match between Herzog and Zhang moving things into round two.