Two tournament favorites got knocked out in the first round of the Japan Women’s Open on Tuesday, as top seed Misaki Doi fell on home soil against Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus 7-5, 6-3, while second seed and defending champion Yanina Wickmayer also went out.
World No. 35 Doi, who reached a Grand Slam fourth round for the first time at Wimbledon in July, struggled with her first serves as she traded three breaks with Sasnovich in the first set. At 5-5, the 110th-ranked Belarusian secured four straight points after going 30-0 down to break before she held serve to take the initiative.
Sasnovich continued to keep Doi on her toes, especially with good cross-court backhands, and broke in the third game of the second set. Doi, cheered on by the home crowd at Ariake Tennis Forest Park, showed her grit, fighting back from 40-15 down to hold serve in the seventh game, but bowed out in an hour and a half after sending her forehand over for another Sasnovich break.
“I don’t get many opportunities to play in Japan, and also as a top seed I wanted to win. It’s disappointing it ended this way,” said Doi. “I couldn’t snatch it when it was a close contest late in the first set and that gave her an extra momentum, I needed to win there to stop her.
“There were no free points with my service game, all the games were tight even with those that I managed to hold and I could never get that conviction when I served.”
While Doi, current highest-ranked Japanese women’s player, vowed to do better next week in Tokyo at the Pan Pacific Open, the 25-year-old had some encouraging words for teenage compatriot Naomi Osaka, whose match was pushed back until Wednesday due to bad weather.
“She’s still young but has huge potential,” Doi said of the 18-year-old. “She had a chance against (Madison) Keys at the U.S. Open, against someone who is really hard to beat. I trained with her (Osaka) a few times. She’s a really powerful player and is giving me good motivation.”
In another shock, Wickmayer fell 6-1, 7-6 (9-7) to Swiss Viktorija Golubic in their first meeting.
Wickmayer, who won here last year for her first tour title in five years, claimed her fifth title in July at the Washington Open but hasn’t played a match since due to injuries. The world No. 39 struggled to deal with precise drop shots from the 73rd-ranked Golubic, who broke all four service games from the Belgian to take the opener.
“There’s a lot more pressure when you are defending a title, and especially because I came back after I injured myself before the U.S. Open,” she said. “It was tough for me in general.
“I think in the second set I got to drop shots a bit better, but the fact that she had the chance to play many drop shots means I didn’t play the right way. She’s a really smart player so she did what she had to do.”
In other matches, Swedish fourth seed Johanna Larsson defeated Germany’s Sabine Lisicki 6-3, 6-2, while Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic defeated German Antonia Lottner 6-1, 6-4, and South Korean qualifier Jang Su Jeong ousted China’s Zheng Saisai 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.