American tennis superstar Venus Williams crashed out of the China Open on Monday, losing for the second week in a row to talented Russian teen Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
On the men’s side, Serbia’s Novak Djokovic, the number two seed, dropped his serve once early against Romania’s Victor Hanescu but worked out his jitters to take the match in straight sets, 6-3, 7-5.
Williams, the third seed, was looking to avenge her loss to the 18-year-old Russian at last week’s Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, but she never found her rhythm against Pavlyuchenkova, who won the second-round match 3-6, 6-1, 6-4.
The 29-year-old Williams — who struggled in her first-round win over another Russian, Vera Dushevina — clawed her way through the first set despite erratic play, closing it out with a blistering forehand down the line.
But Pavlyuchenkova, ranked 39 in the world, remained undaunted, breaking Williams — who had 14 double faults — to go up 3-1 in the second set and cruising to force the third-set decider.
She again broke Williams in the first game of the third set and started to dictate play, with the seven-time Grand Slam winner failing to find her range, spraying ground strokes both into the net and beyond the baseline.
The Russian, serving for the match at 5-2, battled her nerves, double faulting to lose the game at love. Williams held her serve, but Pavlyuchenkova steadied herself to seal the win with a forehand.
”She played really well and unfortunately sometimes I made an error too soon,” a dejected Williams said.
”She plays well against everyone that she plays… Double faults didn’t help me today.”
Men’s world number four Djokovic, who preceded Williams on centre court at the Olympic tennis venue, mixed up his slice and two-handed topspin backhands to keep Hanescu on the back foot, and earned some easy points with 10 aces.
In the first set, a few ill-timed errors from the Romanian gave the 22-year-old Serb the break to go up 4-2, and he cruised from there thanks to powerful serving and pinpoint ground strokes.
The pair remained even for much of the second set until Djokovic broke the world number 27 to go up 6-5, and then served out the match.
”I was happy overall with the way I played. It’s just that I thought I could have finished the job earlier,” Djokovic said.
”It was a little bit frustrating, the way I was losing some points in the second set,” he added, noting that he was still slightly jet-lagged.
”You could see that in the second set, I was a bit sleepy,” the Serb admitted. ”Hopefully the next match will be more consistent and I’ll be able to play my best.”
In other first-round ATP action, Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber defeated Ivo Karlovic 7-6 (8/6), 4-6, 6-1, despite the big-serving Croat’s 27 aces. France’s Julien Benneteau advanced, beating Brazil’s Marcos Daniel 6-3, 6-4.
Former French Open champ Juan Carlos Ferrero was to play in the night session at the mixed event, upgraded by both the men’s and women’s tours, which see China as a key strategic marketplace.
Top seed Rafael Nadal, who won the China Open in 2005 and claimed Olympic gold at this venue last year, was to play his opening match against Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus on Tuesday.
On the women’s side, sixth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia easily advanced into the round of 16, beating Spain’s Anabel Medina Garrigues, 6-2, 6-1.
In first-round play, Slovakia’s Daniela Hantuchova eased past Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain 7-5, 6-2 and 20-year-old American Vania King defeated Kazakhstan’s Galina Voskoboeva, 6-4, 6-3. — Sapa-AFP