Agnieszka Radwanska starts strong at China Open as she closes in on place at WTA Finals
Pole sweeps aside Chinese wild card Wang Qiang while Briton Johanna Konta and Dane Caroline Wozniacki – both heading for the Prudential Hong Kong Open – also move through to the second round
Agnieszka Radwanska beat Chinese wild card Wang Qiang in straight sets 6-2, 6-2 in the first round of the China Open on Sunday, leaving her just two wins away from clinching a place in the elite season finale.
The Pole needs to reach the quarter-finals in Beijing to guarantee her sixth consecutive appearance at the eight-player WTA Final in Singapore.
She scooped the year-end crown last year, having qualified for the event just a week before when she bagged her second title of the season in Tianjin.
“I had the situation last year when I had to win the Tianjin Open to qualify for Singapore, and I did it,” said the current world number four.
“Of course, it was last-minute qualifying. I will try everything to qualify a bit before that this year.”
Eighth ranked Carla Suarez Navarro crashed out in the first round of the China Open, putting her qualification for the year-ending tournament in doubt.
But the Spaniard’s defeat to Yaroslava Shvedova, currently ranked at 41, opens the door to players just behind her in the so-called “Race to Singapore” – Venus Williams, Petra Kvitova and Svetlana Kuznetsova.
A first-time qualification is also in sight for both Briton Johanna Konta and American big hitter Madison Keys, who both won their first-round matches.
Meanwhile, Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic battled past former world number one Jelena Jankovic to secure her second-round spot in a nail-biting tiebreak. Jankovic won the Hong Kong Open in 2015.
Caroline Wozniacki faced a three-set battle against Coco Vandeweghe to reach the second round, just a week after the former world number one won her first title since February 2015 in Tokyo.
The Dane was sidelined by injury for much of this year but made a strong late-season comeback, reaching the US Open semi-finals in September and the round of 16 in the Wuhan Open to signal her return to form.