AP – Australian Samantha Stosur has been thrashed by Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the opening round of the Wuhan Tennis Open in central China.
Stosur, coming off a marathon three-set second-round defeat to Swiss giant-killer Belinda Bencic at the Pan-Pacific Open in Tokyo, has lost to the Croatian 6-2 6-1.
In other first-round action in Wuhan, Varvara Lepchenko of the United States beat China’s Zheng Saisai 6-4 6-0, while Russian Daria Gavrilova led Teliana Pereira of Brazil 6-2 5-6 when play was suspended.
Meanwhile, China’s two-time grand slam winner Li Na opened a new 15,000-seat stadium at the Wuhan Open on Sunday to huge cheers from her hometown fans.
The new stadium has been built on the back of Li’s career success – she was the first Asian to win a grand slam singles, which led to the popularity of tennis surging in China.
Huge applause echoed through the stadium as Li, now retired, stepped onto the court wearing a red dress and was joined by the tournament’s defending champion Petra Kvitova to open the new arena officially.
Similar in capacity to Wimbledon’s centre court, the new stadium is dwarfed only by the US Open’s Arthur Ashe stadium which has a capacity of 23,000. It has a retractable roof and a metal and glass structure reminiscent of the “bird’s nest” in Beijing, the centrepiece of the 2008 Olympics.
Czech Kvitova, the world No.4, won the inaugural Wuhan Open last year, and is joined for the 2015 edition by 18 of the world’s top 20.
“I am very happy to be here again and the stadium looks wonderful and I will try my best to fight for the title,” Kvitova said.
She added that Li, who was a close friend when they were both on the circuit, has promised to let her meet her new daughter Alisa, who was born in June. Mention of the baby’s name prompted more excited applause from the crowd.
Li, who has rarely appeared in public since retiring and giving birth, said: “One year ago, I came here for the farewell ceremony. Now one year later, I’m standing on this court as mother.”
Li has plans to open her own tennis academy. “Now it’s under preparation, so please be patient,” she told the crowd.
This year there are 10 professional women’s tournaments in China, and 23 in the Asia Pacific region, nearly half of the WTA’s 55 annual events.
The Wuhan Open with a $US2.4 million ($A3.4 million) purse, is the second last qualifying tournament before the WTA Finals in Singapore.