WUHAN, China, Sept 26, (Agencies): World number two Caroline Wozniacki and Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber were stunned at the Wuhan Open in China on Wednesday, both suffering shock defeats at the hands of less fancied opponents.
Olympic champion Monica Puig gave herself an early birthday present, beating Wozniacki 7-6 (12-10), 7-5 to reach the quarter-finals. She was joined in the last eight by in-form Ashleigh Barty, who upset world number three Kerber 7-5, 6-1.
The 51st-ranked Puig was more than a match for Australian Open champion Wozniacki, who missed an opportunity to narrow the gap at the top after world number one Simona Halep was knocked out on Monday. It was the second time this year that Puig defeated Wozniacki, who made a solid start to the match, winning the first three games. But the Puerto Rican Puig quickly fought her way back to win two gruelling sets, the first of which was decided through a tie-breaker. Puig, who turns 25 on Thursday, appeared unfazed by her opponent’s stature, and kept the Dane under pressure throughout with her aggressive play, especially during the tie-breaker, when control swayed between the two. “I feel like we both know each other’s game well,” said Puig, who made it to the main rounds in Wuhan through the qualifiers.
“I just had to try and stay focused and be really aggressive at certain keypoints.” Puig has been plagued by inconsistency since her Olympic gold in 2016, and vowed that she has dealt with the difficult aftermath of the Rio Games. “I think I let the pressure get to me,” Puig said. “I was… not really feeling comfortable with myself.” “Now I’m really just trying to take care of all the little stuff… (to make) the big picture seem a little bit easier to manage.
“My lesson from Rio has been learned.” Germany’s Kerber was downed 7-5, 6-1 by Australia’s Barty, last year’s runner-up in Wuhan. Barty came storming out of the blocks, taking a 3-0 lead in the first set before the German offered some resistance to make it 5-5. But it was a short-lived fightback as Barty, Australia’s top-ranked player, quickly regained control while Kerber struggled to contain unforced errors. The Aussie wrapped up the match in just over 75 minutes, setting up a quarter-final against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. “I feel like by far this was my best match,” said Barty, who is looking to end the 2018 season on a high. “I set myself that goal at the start of the year, that I want to stay top-20. I feel like I’m a top-20 player. Obviously I would love to push towards the top 10,” she added.
“It’s been a really exciting year and hopefully there is a couple of big tournaments left.” Meanwhile Pierre-Hugues Herbert advanced to the quarterfinals of the Shenzhen Open by beating secondseeded Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6 (4) . The Frenchman won 79 percent of the points on his first serve and 55 percent on his second. Also, Japanese qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka upset sixth-seeded Denis Shapovalov 7-6 (5), 3-6, 7-5, and Albert Ramos-Vinolas beat Viktor Troicki 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-6 (3). – Second-seeded Hyeon Chung and fourth-seeded Adrian Mannarino both lost at the Chengdu Open. Canadian lucky loser Felix Auger- Aliassime advanced to the quarterfinals by beating Chung 7-6 (2), 5-7, 6-4, while Malek Jaziri upset Mannarino 6-3, 7-6 (5). Auger-Aliassime saved five of eight break points in the match.