Emotional Day 1 in Tokyo
Published September 27, 2009 12:00
TOKYO, Japan - The first round of the Toray Pan Pacific Open kicked off on Sunday but the biggest emotions of the day came outside of match play, as Sony Ericsson WTA Tour players and officials joined Ai Sugiyama on Center Court for a special ceremony from the Japanese, who will retire this week.
Sugiyama, who made it as high as No.8 in singles and No.1 in doubles, is playing the last tournament of her long and very successful career, and she extended her appreciation to her fans and friends for all of their support over the years. Everyone involved in the ceremony gave Sugiyama a flower until she held a full bouquet, and Daniela Hantuchova and Katarina Srebotnik - two of the Japanese's most loyal doubles partners - gave teary-eyed speeches.
Sugiyama took the court later in the only doubles match of the day, with Hantuchova, beating Vania King and Zheng Jie in a match tie-break. She will play what could be the last singles match of her career on Monday, against Nadia Petrova, the No.13 seed here. She is 2-2 against the Russian.
Early all-unseeded matches saw Elena Vesnina, Sabine Lisicki, Alisa Kleybanova, Gisela Dulko, Aravane Rezai and qualifiers Andrea Petkovic, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Chang Kai-Chen reaching Round 2.
Later on three seeds took the court with very mixed results, with No.9 seed Flavia Pennetta falling to Roberta Vinci, 61 62; No.10 seed Ana Ivanovic losing to Lucie Safarova, 64 76(1); but No.15 seed Li Na avenging those upsets with a 64 60 win over Alizé Cornet. Vinci's win over world No.10 Pennetta was her third career Top 10 win, and first of the year.