Last women standing: Caroline Wozniacki joins Petra Kvitova in next round as retirements rock Wuhan Open

Britain’s Heather Watson, Anastasija Sevastova, of Latvia, and Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova join the injury list, while Serena Williams is also missing

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 September, 2016, 6:07pm
UPDATED : Monday, 26 September, 2016, 11:15pm

Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki, due to play in October’s Prudential Hong Kong Open, made a strong start at the WTA Wuhan Open as the tournament was hit by a wave of retirements on Monday.

Wozniacki – fresh from a title victory at the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo on Sunday – took two sets to secure her place in the second round, as double Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and Briton Johanna Konta also made convincing starts.

Four players quit mid-match, taking the tally to six in just two days at the Chinese tournament, which is also missing injured world number two Serena Williams.

Wozniacki was sidelined by injury for nearly three months earlier this year but has made a strong late-season comeback, reaching the semi-finals of the US Open and bagging her first crown of the season in Tokyo.

The 26-year-old Dane flew straight to Wuhan after Sunday’s final where she dispatched Australian Samantha Stosur in two sets, winning 6-3, 6-2 on an ace.

“I’m on a roll, so hopefully I can keep pushing myself and play well,” she told reporters after the match.

Kvitova served six aces – mirrored by her teenage opponent’s six double faults - to sweep to a 6-3, 6-1 victory against Latvian Jelena Ostapenko.

“The beginning of the match was just terrible. Afterwards, I was just more relaxed and more confident,” the Czech player said.

“I think the key was kind of attacking her second serve.”

Meanwhile, Konta eased past German Annika Beck 6-2, 6-1 to get her campaign off to a flying start.

“She fought all the way through and we had a lot of close games so I don’t think the scoreline quite reflects the level of the match,” Konta said.

The Australian Open semi-finalist will meet Zhang Shuai of China, who beat compatriot Peng Shuai in three tightly fought sets 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 6-4.

The pair last met in Melbourne, where Konta halted qualifier Zhang’s fairy tale run in the quarter finals.

“We had a great match at the Australian Open and I haven’t played her since so I think it will be a great battle,” Konta said.

But Britain’s Heather Watson, Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia and Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova all joined the injury list as they retired from their first round matches.

The tournament, which comes just two weeks after the year’s final grand slam, the US Open, also saw five retirements last year – including in the final.

Monday’s pull-outs enabled American Madison Brengle, Yulia Putintseva of Kazakstan and Japan’s Misaki Doi to progress to the second round with unexpected ease.

Kvitova levelled her season’s score with Ostapenko, who beat the Olympic bronze medallist twice at the beginning of the year, before the Czech ousted her at the US Open.

Illness hampered the start of the 26-year-old Kvitova’s season, which also saw her split with her coach of seven years David Kotyza, and she has slipped to 16th in the rankings – her lowest in five years.

But she won her first Olympic medal in Rio de Janeiro, losing in the semi-finals to eventual gold medallist Monica Puig before beating American Madison Keys for the third podium spot.

Wimbledon quarter-finalist Dominika Cibulkova took three sets to beat French qualifier Alize Cornet 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 and next faces German Laura Siegemund.