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.
TWO AND TWO: Lin Chen-hao of Taiwan finished seventh in the women’s U-48kg category, winning two bouts before losses the quarter-finals and a repechage match Naohisa Takato yesterday won Japan’s first gold medal at their home Olympics, beating Taiwan’s Yang Yung-wei in the men’s under-60kg judo final. Yang’s second-place finish is Taiwan’s first medal in Tokyo and the nation’s first-ever medal in an Olympics judo competition. Kosovo’s Distria Krasniqi beat Japan’s Funa Tonaki in the women’s under-48kg final less than an hour before Takato made sure that his team would not have a double heartbreak on the opening day of competition in its beloved homegrown martial art. Takato won his final three bouts in sudden-death golden score, but he took the final a bit anticlimactically after Yang committed
Four key men’s doubles pairings — dubbed by the Badminton World Federation (BWF) as “the group of death” — are to take over two courts side-by-side today just after midday in Tokyo, in matches that already have the badminton world abuzz. What is formally known as Group A pits pairings from Taiwan, Indonesia, India and Britain against one another — the former three ranked in the top 10. Taiwanese pairing Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin are set to challenge Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty of India, while world No. 1 duo Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo of Indonesia are to
After complaining about flying economy class to the Olympic Games, Taiwanese badminton player Tai Tzu-ying appeared satisfied with her hotel room in Tokyo, praising its proximity to the badminton venue. “It saves commuting time and allows more time to rest,” the 27-year-old Tai wrote on Instagram yesterday morning. “It’s very good.” The Athletes’ Village is about 50 minutes by car from the badminton venue, but the hotel is only a 10-minute drive, she said. “It’ll give me more time to rest and prepare, whether before or after a match,” Tai added. Taiwan’s badminton team is staying at the Marroad Inn Tokyo in Chofu City,
KEEP ’EM COMING: In her first Olympic appearance, Lo set a high bar, fighting her way to the final bouts, and earning Taiwan its second medal after Yang Yung-wei’s silver Taiwan’s Lo Chia-ling yesterday clinched the nation’s second medal at the Tokyo Olympics, grabbing a bronze medal in taekwondo in the women’s 57kg class. Nineteen-year-old Lo beat Nigeria’s Tekiath Ben Yessouf 10-6 at Tokyo’s Makuhari Messe convention center. Lo, who is making her first appearance in the Olympic Games, worked her way to the bronze medal contest with an early 20-18 win against South Korea’s Lee Ah-reum in the round of 16, before dropping Canada’s Skylar Park 18-7 in the quarter-final. It was Anastasija Zolotic of the US who denied the former World Taekwondo Junior Championship gold medalist a chance to fight for