San Diego | Mixed fortunes in California

There were mixed results on Day 2 of the San Diego Open, with the early departures of Garbiñe Muguruza, due to illness, and Maria Sakkari, while Daria Kasatkina, Sloane Stephens and Karolina Pliskova all found their way into round two.

I was lucky to get into the draw, and I had a good match today. To get into the next round, it's double lucky.  Zheng Qinwen

China’s Qinwen Zheng took advantage of a last-minute lucky loser entry into the main draw when Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina succumbed to illness, and jumped out to a 5-0 lead on Muguruza, the former World No 1 from Spain, who was forced to retire mid match because of a gastrointestinal illness.

A finalist at the Toray Pan Pacific Open two weeks ago, Zheng fell in the final round of qualifying to Camila Osorio, 4-6 6-4 7-6(3).

“Actually, yesterday I could also sign in as lucky loser but I didn’t choose to sign in because I was having an issue with my body,” Zheng told reporters in San Diego, having tripped and fallen in her final round of qualifying and did not feel well enough to play on Monday. “Today I was feeling better, so I decided with my team to sign in as a lucky loser.

“I was lucky to get into the draw, and I had a good match today. To get into the next round, it’s double lucky.”

Zheng’s brush with top opponents will continue in the 2nd-round when she meets Poland’s Iga Swiatek, the reigning French Open and US Open champion, on Thursday.

World No 1 Iga Swiatek has flown from Ostrava to San Diego where she play her first match on Thursday against Zheng Qinwen

© Elsa/Getty Images

Swiatek says she is still feeling fresh for the final events of her phenomenal 2022 campaign, which will finish with the San Diego Open and WTA Finals in Fort Worth, Texas.

The World No 1 could have been forgiven had she opted out of this week after the 21-year-old put in a gruelling and emotional effort at the AGEL Open in Ostrava last weekend to make her tour-leading 8th final of the season, narrowly losing out to former World No 2 Barbora Krejcikova.

“Even though I played two really long matches there, I feel pretty fine physically,” Swiatek told reporters in San Diego. “The thing is that, right now, I feel more fresh because I had more time off after the US Open.

“So going into Ostrava I knew I could give everything, and go all in. It’s not that bad. It’s the ‘nice’ jet lag, coming this way.”

San Diego will be Swiatek’s last regular season tournament this year, and she will stay in America to practice and train ahead of the WTA Finals, which begin on 31 October.

Swiatek took her tour-leading tally to 60 match wins in Ostrava, becoming the first player to cross the 60-match mark since 2017.

Qualifier Donna Vekic upset 5th-seeded Maria Sakkari and will meet Karolina Pliskova next in San Diego

© Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Croatia’s Donna Vekic beat 5th-seeded Sakkari from Greece for the 5th time in 7 meetings, 7-6(3) 6-1.

“Maria is a really good friend of mine,” Vekic said. “I wasn’t happy to play her.

“I think we were both pretty nervous at the beginning, but I managed to calm down a little bit and, I think, I found my zone in the second set.”

Vekic, ranked 77, now owns 9 career wins over Top-10 opponents, including an upset of No 3 seed Aryna Sabalenka last summer at the Tokyo Olympics.

“I was really happy when I found out that she took a wild-card at the last second, and was coming here,” added Vekic. “I texted her straight away.

“When the draw came out, I was, like, ‘Oh, my God, we’re playing each other!’ It’s not easy. We fight on the court, but we’re still close off the court.”

The 26-year old finished with 7 aces and converted 5 of 6 break-point opportunities.

From 5-3 down in the opening set, Vekic, who had to qualify for this week’s WTA 500 event, won 10 of the last 12 games and has yet to lose a set.

Sloane Stephens got past lucky loser Jil Teichmann in straight sets and will test 3rd seed Aryna Sabalenka next in California

© Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Former US Open champion Stephens and Pliskova, a one-time US Open runner-up, also posted wins in their opening matches on Tuesday, the American scoring her second in 2022 over lucky loser Jil Teichmann, beating the Swiss left-hander, 6-1 7-6(2), while the former World No 1 from the Czech Republic beat American Caroline Dolehide, 6-3 6-4, to advance to the 2nd-round.

“It’s always a tough match with her. She’s a great player,” said Stephens, who is ranked 52 and saved a set point in the second set. “I knew she was going to come out and give me a good fight.

“I just tried to stay calm and play my game. In the end, it went my way.”

Teichmann made it into the main draw as a lucky loser when Veronika Kudermetova withdrew with a shoulder injury, and the last-minute change of opponent proved no trouble for Stephens, who saved the set point in the second set as the Swiss served up a break at 5-4.

Stephens will now be the first opponent for Sabalenka from Belarus, who received a 1st-round bye.

Leylah Fernandez, the US Open 2021 runner-up, dropped her second match of the year to 8th-seed Daria Kasatkina, 6-2 6-2, in just 59 minutes.

“Dasha is an amazing player,” Fernandez said of the Russian. “She’s improved so much over the years.

“I watched her play on TV when I was still a junior. Seeing her now in the top 10 and doing so well this year is truly inspiring.

I think, today, she showed how well she can play. She didn’t make too many mistakes. I, unfortunately, did.”

Kasatkina was able to win 25 receiving points compared to Fernandez’s 13, and the Russian served winners on 78 per cent of her first serves, compared to the Canadian’s 50, while the spread was even larger on second serves, with Kasatkina holding a 71-42 per cent advantage.



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