TOKYO, Japan - The Top 8 seeds came marching out at the Toray Pan Pacific Open on Monday, with Angelique Kerber, Petra Kvitova and Roberta Vinci all playing their opening matches at the Premier-level event - but only two of the three were able to survive. Elsewhere, the first round came to a close.
Those Top 8 seeds had first round byes and were playing their second round matches, and the No.5-seeded Kerber had the quickest day at the office, crushing Spanish qualifier María-Teresa Torró-Flor, 60 61, winning the first 11 games before dropping serve at love, then breaking at love to end it.
"It's always tough when you have such a long break, but it's nice to be back in Tokyo and I was feeling very good," Kerber said. "I'm happy with how I played today and I'm just focused from round to round."
The No.7-seeded Kvitova had a closer challenge but toughed out a 54-minute first set and rallied from a break down in the second set to make it past Swiss wildcard Belinda Bencic in straight sets, 75 64.
"I was nervous before the match and continued feeling that way during the match, but at the end of the match I played better than I did at the beginning, so that was a good sign," Kvitova said afterwards. "I hadn't seen her play before but I had heard from her coach that she's a strong player, and she's very young - she's seven years younger than me, so it was weird for me to play someone so much younger!
"She's a good junior and I think she can become a very good professional tennis player."
Vinci, the No.8 seed, wasn't so lucky - leading 5-2 in the first set with set point, the Italian lost control of her match against Lucie Safarova, eventually falling to Czech in a close straight-setter, 75 64.
It wasn't only revenge for Safarova - she had lost both of her previous meetings with Vinci this year, including just a few weeks ago at the US Open - but the Czech has now won seven matches in a row, winning five in a row to capture her fifth WTA title at Québec City, and now two so far here in Tokyo.
And that wasn't the only upset - Madison Keys pulled off a Houdini act against No.10 seed Carla Suárez Navarro as the first round wrapped up, facing double match point serving at 57 25, 15-40, but eventually clawing back and beating the Spaniard, 57 75 62. The American teenager fired 10 aces.
"I don't know if I've come back from match points down before, but I've come back from being pretty far down, but anyway it feels amazing," an elated Keys said after the match. "Carla's such a great player and obviously she's done very, very well this year, so obviously I'm happy to get through it today."
Other first round winners were No.13 seed Simona Halep, Magdalena Rybarikova, Peng Shuai, Andrea Petkovic and Aleksandra Wozniak. Petkovic rallied from 64 31 down to beat Elena Vesnina, 46 76(5) 64, and Wozniak also came back, rallying from 62 20 down to beat Francesca Schiavone, 26 64 62.