OSAKA, Japan - Samantha Stosur shook off disappointment from Beijing and made a winning return to the courts in Osaka on Monday afternoon, easing through her first round match at one of her most sentimental WTA stops.
The No.1-seeded Stosur lost one of her early service games but apart from that was never broken and defeated Japan's Erika Sema in straight sets, 64 62.
"I thought I played quite well," Stosur said. "She came out playing very well too - she was hitting the ball well, hitting it hard, and playing really aggressively - she was trying to play her best. But I did everything I had to, and as the match went on I thought my serve got better, I got more aggressive and just got better.
"I'd never seen her play before. I knew she was right-handed, and her sister might be left-handed, but other than that I didn't know anything about her!"
Last week in Beijing, Stosur was among four players battling it out for the eighth and last spot in the WTA Championships, alongside Li Na, Marion Bartoli and Caroline Wozniacki. Li ended up securing the spot, and Stosur and Bartoli will be the two alternates in Istanbul (though which one of them is first alternate and which one is second alternate will be determined in Moscow next week).
"It was very disappointing in Beijing when I lost, because then I knew pretty much had no chance to qualify. But now I'm an alternate. So now I'm using other things to motivate me for the rest of the year other than qualifying for the WTA Championships - the motivation is to try to improve and work on things. Of course I want to win all of these matches, but there's nothing major riding on it.
"This year I can finish No.9 or No.10 - I'll try for No.9."
Obviously everyone remembers Stosur's US Open title in 2011, and most people remember her Charleston title in 2010, maybe helped by the viral video of what her opponent did to her racquet in the final - but the first of Stosur's three WTA titles actually came right here in 2009, as she shook off an 0-5 finals record for her first career title, beating Francesca Schiavone in the final.
The only other seed in action wasn't so lucky, as No.3 seed Christina McHale clawed back from 3-0 and 5-3 deficits in the second set but just couldn't push it to a third against Chang Kai-Chen, losing in straight sets, 63 76(5).
Other winners were Heather Watson, Pauline Parmentier, Jamie Hampton, Casey Dellacqua and Misaki Doi. And in the first doubles match of the week, top seeds Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears cruised - though they can't clinch it here, Kops-Jones and Spears are battling it out for the fourth and final spot in the doubles event at the WTA Championships, and could add valuable points to their campaign here this week (Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova - who aren't playing this week - are also chasing that fourth and final berth).