Beijing: Holder Caroline Wozniacki survived a tough challenge to begin her title defence of the ATP-WTA China Open Monday, with the top seed stretched to the limit in a win over Lucie Hradecka 3-6, 6-0, 7-5.
Wozniacki, the top-ranked player on the WTA but without a Grand Slam crown, has had a patchy few months, winning a minor pre-US Open title, stalling in the semi-finals of the New York major and then crashing to a second-round loss last week in Tokyo.
"It wasn`t a pretty match, but I`m through," said the top seed after reaching the second round. "That`s what`s most important."
Beijing has a special place for the Dane, winner of six titles this season, who first took over the top ranking in the Chinese capital a year ago.
"It`s been a year now that I`m number one, it`s an amazing feeling. It`s something I`ve always practised for and tried to achieve. Over the last few tournaments of the season, I want to finish off well," she said.
Wary of the first-round upset loss of French Open winner Li Na of China, Wozniacki made sure she came through for victory over her 49th-ranked opponent from the Czech Republic, but not before dropping the first set.
However, the 21-year-old belatedly came good, ignoring nine aces from her opponent, who also sent over seven double-faults. Wozniacki broke six times on her way to victory and a meeting with Australian Jarmila Gajdosova.
"It was a tough match because there was no rhythm, so it was tough to really get into the game. But the second set her first serve percentage dropped, and made it easier for me to start the rallies," said Wozniacki.
"It`s never easy to start and play your first match. I didn`t really put too many balls in the court (in the first set). She was putting the pressure on me from the beginning."
In other first-round matches, Zheng Jie earned a welcome home win as she beat Italian Alberta Brianti 4-6, 6-1, 7-5, while Russian Maria Kirilenko, the 2005 winner, beat German Julia Goerges 7-6 (11/9), 6-3.
Virginie Razzano of France reached the second round by beating Argentine Gisela Dulko 6-2, 6-3.
Austrian Tamira Paszek booked the first of the third-round places with her defeat of Czech Petra Cetkovska 1-6, 6-4, 6-2.
Seventh seed and former Roland Garros champion Francesca Schiavone of Italy went out to Slovak Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 6-2.
In men`s first-round play, four Europeans advanced.
Croatia`s former top 10 regular Marin Cilic, now standing 25th, defeated China`s Wu Di 6-2, 6-0, while Spain`s Feliciano Lopez put out Turk Marsel Ilhan 6-2, 7-6 (8/6). Spaniard Fernando Verdasco defeated Michael Llodra of France 6-2, 6-4.
Florian Mayer of Germany, playing his first match since winning the clay Bucharest title eight days ago, made a successful change of surface to the hardcourts, taking out Spaniard Albert Ramos 6-2, 6-4.
Cilic said that while his game has slipped, he believes it`s on the mend.
"I feel my form is rising since July. I`ve had some really good tournaments and good wins against top players so I`m feeling confident," he said.
"I played well today and I`m looking forward for my next match. It won`t be easy, but I hope I`m going to be 100 percent ready," he said of his clash against either second seed Gael Monfils or Italian Fabio Fognini.