Tennis: Sabalenka begins Shenzhen title defense with emphatic win

FILE PHOTO: Tennis - WTA Premier - Nature Valley Classic - Edgbaston Priory Club, Edgbaston, Birmingham, Britain - June 17, 2019 Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka in action during her first round match against Taiwan's Hsieh Su-wei Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine

(Reuters) - Defending champion Aryna Sabalenka started her 2020 season in style with a 6-3 6-0 victory over Russian qualifier Margarita Gasparyan in the first round of the Shenzhen Open on Monday.

The Belarusian -- who also won titles in Wuhan and Zhuhai last year -- needed only 71 minutes to wrap up the contest, breaking Gasparyan five times on center court to advance to the last 16.

“I’m happy to start my season with a two-set win,” she said in her post-match interview. “It was a tough match and really tough to start.

“She’s a great player and it was tough to play against her. She has strong strokes.

Sabalenka will next face the Czech Republic’s Kristyna Pliskova, who beat Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu 6-3 6-3.

Sixth seed Garbine Muguruza fought back to beat China’s Wang Xin Yu 3-6 6-3 6-0 while Aliaksandra Sasnovich advanced with a 6-2 6-3 victory over Germany’s Anna-Lena Friedsam.

In a battle between two Americans, Shelby Rogers beat Nicole Gibbs 6-3 5-7 6-4 in a match that lasted two hours and 33 minutes while fourth seed and local hope Wang Qiang got the better of Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur 6-0 6-3.

Seventh seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan beat China’s Zheng Saisai 6-2 1-6 6-2.

Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford