Asagoe gets off to winning start

Seventh-seed Shinobu Asagoe overpowered Maria Vento-Kabchi in straight sets to advance to the second round of the women’s singles at the Japan Open in Tokyo on Monday.

News photoJapan’s Saori Obata returns the ball to Slovakia’s Martina Sucha during the first round of the
AIG Japan Open Tennis Championships at Tokyo’s Ariake Tennis Forest Park on Monday. Obata won
6-1, 6-0.

Asagoe defeated unseeded Venezuelan Vento-Kabchi 6-3, 6-3 in blustery conditions at Ariake Tennis Forest Park and was joined in the second round by fellow Japanese Saori Obata and Rika Fujiwara.

World No. 34 Asagoe, who has never advanced past the second round of this event, raced into a 3-0 lead in the first set, benefiting from some dubious line calls and a series of unforced errors from her 66th-ranked opponent.

She double-faulted and then hit a routine return into the net to concede her first game before the set was marred by poor officiating in the seventh game.

Asagoe won a point to make it deuce only for the umpire to inexplicably award her the game. The mistake was corrected after a five-minute delay and Vento-Kabchi pulled back to 4-3.

“I thought the (seventh) game was finished and when I asked the umpire she confirmed it. Then we started counting the points and noone could remember so in the end it all looked like my fault,” joked Asagoe.

She quickly recovered to take the set before producing a strong comeback, serving out the match after losing the first three games of the second set.

In the day’s opening game on center court, wildcard Obata took just 57 minutes to destroy Slovakian Martina Sucha 6-1, 6-0 while Fujiwara advanced after her Austrian opponent Sybille Bammer retired after suffering an arm injury at the start of the third set with the score at 0-6, 7-5.

In the men’s draw, qualifier Tasuku Iwami went down 7-6 (11-9), 6-4 to American Eric Taino while 16-year-old Takahiro Ittogi was thrashed 6-0, 6-1 by Ecuador’s Nicolas Lapentti.

In doubles action, Ai Sugiyama and 15-year-old partner Ayumi Morita were dumped out of the women’s draw 6-4, 6-1 by American pair Jennifer Hopkins and Mashona Washington.

Clijsters wins fifth

LUXEMBOURG (AP) Kim Clijsters moved closer to reclaiming the WTA’s No. 1 ranking, defeating Anna-Lena Groenefeld of Germany 6-2, 6-4 Sunday to win the Fortis Championships for the fifth time.