Serena leads march of China Open top seeds
BEIJING (Reuters) - WTA Finals qualifiers Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep confirmed their class with straight-sets victories at the China Open on Tuesday as two contenders to join them in the season-ending tournament suffered surprise defeats.
World number one and defending champion Williams had struggled in her opening match on the blue hard courts of Beijing but the American was back to her best in her 6-2 6-3 second-round victory over Bulgaria's Tsvetana Pironkova.
The pair traded a break apiece in the first five games of the match before recently crowned U.S. Open champion Williams took control of the contest by reeling off three straight games to claim the opening set.
The second was a much tighter affair until Williams broke her opponent in a marathon ninth game and then held her own serve to secure victory in 74 minutes.
Like Williams, French Open champion Sharapova and Halep, runner-up at Roland Garros, are already assured of places in the eight-woman field at the WTA Finals, and they continued their good form on Tuesday.
Russian Sharapova produced some bruising groundstrokes as the world number four crushed Ukrainian Elina Svitolina 6-2 6-2 to set up a third-round meeting with Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro.
Romanian Halep had a slightly tougher time overcoming Chinese wildcard Zhu Lin 7-5 6-4.
World number 167 Zhu followed Sharapova's aggressive tactics to move 5-4 ahead in the first set against second-ranked Halep, only to lose her composure and the match.
SURPRISE DEFEATS Continued...