Serena and Cilic advance in China, Nadal loses on return
BEIJING (Reuters) - U.S. Open champions Marin Cilic and Serena Williams kicked off their China Open campaigns with straight sets victories against battling underdogs on Monday, but Rafa Nadal suffered defeat in a rare doubles outing on his return from injury.
Williams, who won her 18th grand slam singles title in New York earlier this month, started sluggishly and found herself 5-0 and 40-15 down to Spanish qualifier Silvia Soler Espinosa.
However, the world number one saved four set points in a brilliant fightback before taking the match 7-5 6-2 to set up a second round clash with another qualifier, Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova.
It was the American's first outing since retiring in the first set of her opening match against Alize Cornet at the Wuhan Open last week because of illness.
Also returning after an absence, albeit a longer one, was 14 times grand slam singles champion Nadal, who had been sidelined for over three months with a wrist injury.
The world number two teamed up with compatriot Pablo Andujar in the men's doubles but they lost 5-7 6-4 10-4 to Czech Tomas Berdych and American John Isner in his first match since losing in the last 16 at Wimbledon.
The Spaniard is the second seed in the men's singles draw and will face Richard Gasquet of France in first round action on the Beijing blue courts later in the week.
The 28-year-old has picked a tough tournament to mark his return with eight of the world's top 15 taking part in the ATP 500 outdoor hardcourt event with five spots still up for grabs at the season-ending World Tour Finals in November.