Taiwanese No. 1 Hsieh Su-wei on Monday returned to the court for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the WTA Tour, falling to a 6-3, 6-1 defeat to US Open quarter-finalist Elise Mertens, who made a solid transition from the hard courts in New York to the clay at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome.
“I’m not sure how well I adapted, to be honest,” Mertens told the WTA Web site. “I just feel like I might still be struggling a little. It was also [Hsieh’s] first match of the week, so that was a bit of an advantage for me. Going from hard to clay is a little difficult with the sliding and timing, but I tried to give everything I had today, tried to adapt where I could.”
While Kaohsiung-born Hsieh, the world No. 62, hit 11 winners, she was undone by 22 unforced errors and eight double faults as the world No. 11 improved her head-to-head record against the Taiwanese to 3-1, the Belgian’s only loss coming when she had to retire trailing 6-2, 4-0 in Tianjing, China, in 2018.
“You can expect a lot of different shots: drop-shots, slice, a lob if you come to net,” Mertens said of Hsieh. “You can expect some really good shots, but I tried to mix it up, too, because I think she likes the hard-hitters, so she can use the pace and get her variety going. I think I did everything well today.”
The defeat means Hsieh can concentrate on her main objective in Rome, a fourth doubles title of the year alongside partner Barbora Strycova after victories in Brisbane, Dubai and Doha.
As top seeds, world No. 1 Hsieh and world No. 2 Strycova received a bye to the second round. They are to face unseeded Japanese duo Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya, who rallied from a set down to defeat Italian wild-cards Elisabetta Cocciaretto and Martina Trevisan 1-6, 7-5, 10-5 in the first round.
Czech Strycova kept her interest in the singles alive by defeating Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova 6-3, 6-3, but she faces a much tougher task in the second round when she takes on second seed and defending champion Karolina Pliskova.
In the men’s singles, Japan’s Kei Nishikori got his first win in a year, with former semi-finalists Grigor Dimitrov and Marin Cilic also easing into the second round.
Nishikori needed six match points to get past Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) in two hours at the Foro Italico for his first win since reaching the US Open third round last year.
“It’s been a long time since the US Open last year,” said the 30-year-old, who reached three Grand Slam quarter-finals last season before undergoing elbow surgery.
“I still don’t have confidence, but little by little I’m getting better,” he said.
Dimitrov, a 2014 semi-finalist in Rome, saw off Italian wild-card Gianluca Mager 7-5, 6-1, while Cilic, who lost to Alexander Zverev in the Rome semi-finals two years ago, battled past Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik 6-7 (4/7), 6-2, 6-4.
Chen Jifang hits the gym for at least two hours every day and has the physique to prove it. At nearly 70, she is being held up as a shining example as China orders its vast population to get fit and lose the bulge. The grandmother from Shanghai has become a minor celebrity in in the past few months after her newfound and unlikely love for working out made national headlines. After becoming a gym regular in December 2018, Chen lost 14kg in three months, and now sports the kind of flat stomach and toned muscles that people decades younger aspire to. She
’SO CONSISTENT’: The victory gave the world No. 1 and world No. 2 a 21-1 win-loss record and their fourth title of the season after successes in Brisbane, Dubai and Doha Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Sunday cruised to their fourth women’s doubles title of the season at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome in their first tournament back since the suspension of the WTA Tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The top seeds took just 63 minutes to complete a comprehensive 6-2, 6-2 victory over unseeded German-Romanian duo Anna-Lena Friedsam and Raluca Olaru at the Foro Italico. It was the Taiwanese-Czech pairing’s first outing since they won the Qatar Open in February. “After five months, you don’t know what to expect,” Strycova told the WTA Web site.
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