Morita advances Pan Pacific Open


Japanese wildcard Ayumi Morita pulled off a dramatic three-set victory over Sorana Cirstea of Romania to reach the second round of the Pan Pacific Open on Sunday.

On a rainy and dreary day at Tokyo’s Ariake Tennis Forest Park where only the retractable roof-covered center court was left open for play, Morita brightened the home crowd with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 win over the 30th-ranked Cirstea.

It was the first time Morita had beaten the Romanian in three meetings, dating back to Birmingham in 2008. The 22-year-old will face world No. 6 Angelique Kerber of Germany, the fifth seed, in her next match.

“Today I was really able to play without the bad parts of my game coming out,” said Morita. “I was very aggressive and this really helps with my confidence.”

Morita, who had been struggling with lower back and right shoulder injuries as of late, dominated to break Cirstea twice in the first set before running into problems with the Romanian’s speedy serves in the second.

But frustration began to set in for Cirstea, who challenged the chair umpire’s decision on what she thought was an ace but lost before Morita broke to go up 2-0 in the third set, and she later slammed her racket to the court after sending a forehand into the net as the Japanese went ahead 3-0.

Cirstea came back from a 3-0 deficit to win the fourth and sixth games, but Morita was too quick on the baseline and more composed, holding serve in the seventh game and breaking again in the eighth as she finished off her opponent with a backhand cross volley.

Asked about the condition of her back, which she first injured during the U.S. Open, Morita said the injury is getting better day by day.

“Today I didn’t feel any pain at all, and I think that the condition is improving. Of course I have to continue with rehab, but no problems.”

In the day’s first match 14th-seed Roberta Vinci of Italy outlasted Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-4, 4-6, 7-5, while 12th seed Dominika Cibulova of Slovakia defeated Spain’s Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) in the second match.

Former world No. 1 Jelena Jankovic of Serbia came back from a break down in the second set to beat Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium 6-3, 6-3.

World No. 2 Maria Sharapova, who won the Pan Pacific title in 2005 and 2009, has a bye into the second round as the second seed here.

“This place brings back so many memories. It’s where I won some of my first big titles and one of my favorite stops of the year. Last year, it was sad to leave with an injury (left ankle), but I’m back this year in good form,” Sharapova said.

World No. 1 and top seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, who won this year’s Australian Open and a gold medal in mixed doubles at the London Olympics, said her main focus is to remain at the top of the WTA rankings as long as possible.

“I feel like without winning titles you can’t remain No. 1. The ranking itself will only follow with my results,” she said.

Noticeably missing from this year’s tournament is world No. 4 Serena Williams, who won this year’s U.S. Open women’s singles and a gold medal at the London Games.

Kimiko Date-Krumm, who won the event back in 1995 and turns 42 on Thursday, will play Monday along with Japanese qualifier Kurumi Nara. Eighteen of the top 20 players in the latest world rankings are competing at the Tokyo meet.