Kurumi Nara crashed out in the first round of the Pan Pacific Open on Tuesday in a grueling three-set match against eighth-seeded Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro.
It was a bad day all round for the host nation as 43-year-old veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm also made an early exit with a defeat against Belarusian Victoria Azarenka.
Suarez Navarro broke Nara’s serve to open their match at Ariake Colosseum and survived enough rallies to advance to the second round with a 6-1, 2-6, 6-2 victory.
“It was really a tough match,” said the 26-year-old Suarez Navarro, who is ranked 19th in the world. “Kurumi played really well, she had a really good backhand and she fought for every point, every ball.”
Nara’s backhand kept many first-set points in doubt, but she was undone by frequent unforced errors on her backhand and a poor service game that allowed Suarez Navarro to seize the initiative with aggressive returns.
The 36th-ranked Nara, Japan’s top-ranked player, made better use of her serve in the second set, and combined that by finishing off more rallies at the net, but she left many opportunities wanting.
Nara was even more hesitant in the third set and quickly fell behind 4-0 only to battle back to test her opponent’s resolve. But grit alone was not enough to overcome such a large deficit.
“I really wanted to win,” Nara said after falling at the first hurdle at this tournament for the third year in a row.
“I couldn’t play my tennis when I really needed to. This has been a really disappointing match.”
In the following match, Date-Krumm took the opening set but struggled in the second set with physical issues and Azarenka prevailed 3-6, 6-0, 6-2 to advance to the next round.
“I dislike retiring more than losing,” Date-Krumm said. “It’s regrettable I couldn’t see how things would have played out had my physical condition been just a little better.”
Top seed Agnieszka Radwanska hammered Polona Hercog Tuesday as she set out on a quest to successfully defend a title for the first time at the WTA Korea Open.
The Polish world No. 5, returning to action after her U.S. Open second-round defeat to China’s Peng Shuai, won 6-3, 6-3 to get her title defense off the mark.
Former Seoul champion Maria Kirilenko, playing on a wildcard after missing three months of the season with a knee injury, beat Croatia’s Donna Vekic 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 to reach round two.
“It was a tough time after my injury last year. I haven’t played much this year and after Wimbledon it got worse so I couldn’t play much of the summer either,” said the Russian.
“I really missed playing and I’m happy I could win this match today, because it was my first long match so far this year,” added Kirilenko, who lifted the trophy in 2008.