Venus Williams’ first visit to Asia since 2017 was cut short as she crashed out of the Wuhan Open first round on Sunday 7-5, 7-6 (7/5) to fellow American Danielle Collins.
The 39-year-old Williams, a 2015 Wuhan champion now 59th in the world rankings, squandered a lead in the first set before eventually losing to Collins, who recorded just the second match win of her career on Chinese soil.
The 35th-ranked Collins rallied back from 3-5 down in the opening set, winning a whopping nine games in a row to go up 7-5, 5-0.
Williams, a wildcard at Wuhan this year, finally stopped the bleeding, holding the serve to interrupt her opponent’s momentum.
It was the start of a surprising five-game run from Williams, who saved two match points along the way as she drew level at 5-5. In the decider, Williams got the first mini-break but it was Collins who eventually created a 6-4 gap, converting with an ace on her fourth match point to move into the second round.
It was Collins’ second triumph over Williams, who had also stumbled against the 25-year-old during the Miami Open last year. “This is my first tournament here in Asia, I was just happy to come out with a win, said Collins, who next takes on defending champion and ninth seed Aryna Sabalenka, a 6-1, 6-2 winner over Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
Meanwhile, 2017 Wuhan runner-up Ashleigh Barty is making sure she has enough left in the tank for a busy closing stretch of the season, including her singles debut at the WTA Finals in Shenzhen and a highly-anticipated Fed Cup final between Australia and France in Perth.
Barty is top seed at Wuhan and faces a stiff challenge in the fight for the year-end number one ranking from the likes of Karolina Pliskova, Simona Halep, Bianca Andreescu and Naomi Osaka.
The 23-year-old Australian is first-ranked this week and would like to finish the year on top, but admitted that she has other priorities. “I think it’s a target without being a target,” Barty told reporters. “We’ve put ourselves in a position where it’s a possibility. I plan my schedule, the last six months of this year, well in advance.—APP