Hong Kong-bound Sloane Stephens suffers shock first-round defeat in China Open
World number 17’s run of poor form since claiming her maiden grand slam title continues but she is hopeful of a better showing next week
US Open winner Sloane Stephens suffered a shock defeat in the first round of the China Open on Monday, while world number one Garbine Muguruza retired ill with a virus.
Stephens, who is playing in next week’s Hong Kong Open, tumbled out in the first round for the second week running, this time at the hands of qualifier Christina McHale.
Stephens, wearing all pink, saw her match delayed by rain falling on Beijing’s outdoor hard courts. When it finally started she failed to fire, going out to her fellow American with a whimper, 6-3, 6-0 in just 62 minutes.
The loss extends Stephens’ poor run after sealing her first grand slam last month. Last week the 24-year-old similarly fell at the first hurdle, losing to China’s Wang Qiang in the opening round of the Wuhan Open.
Stephens, ranked 17 in the world to McHale’s 79, refused to make any excuses during a post-match press conference lasting less than 90 seconds.
“Tough day, not really much to say,” she said. “Obviously not a great match so just forget about it and move on, try to have a better level for the next tournament [in Hong Kong].”
Asked if the delayed start for rain disrupted her, she said: “Yes, but it affects both players, so ... I mean, she obviously just handled it a little bit better.”
‘Asia’s tough’ says US Open champion Sloane Stephens after Wuhan wobble sees her depart in round one
Spain’s Muguruza suggested in the build-up that she was not fully fit after a leg injury and she lost the first set 6-1 to unseeded Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic.
Muguruza, 23, the reigning Wimbledon champion, called a medical timeout at 2-0 down in the second set and then called it quits after having her pulse taken on the side of the court.
Muguruza said afterwards she had been too unwell even to practise for her opener but had been determined to play, having lost in the quarter-finals last week in Wuhan.
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“Since I’m in Beijing, I didn’t play at all. I don’t know, I got a virus in Wuhan,” she said. “I want to feel like giving the last chance, going on the court, just hit a few balls, see how I’m going to feel, try to turn things around. I don’t want to retire before the tournament starts for me.”
Muguruza, yet to win a tournament since reaching the top ranking in mid-September, added: “It’s good that I could play on Monday, I had more days to rest. But in fact, I couldn’t perform today.”