US Open champion Sloane Stephens crashed out in the first round of the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open at the hands of Wang Qiang, while earlier in the day Madison Keys lost to compatriot Varvara Lepchenko.
WTA Staff
September 25, 2017

WUHAN, China - US Open champion Sloane Stephens crashed out of the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open in the first round to Wang Qiang, losing 6-2, 6-2.

Seeded 14th, the American put up a brave fight in the second set but was ultimately overcome by her tricky Chinese opponent.

"I didn't play a great match, but my opponent played very well," said Stephens. "Sometimes you have those days.  So it's just not a good day today."

The 24-year-old added that she found the Asian swing challenging but praised Wang's performance, saying: "She plays very flat. I think the courts here are very fast. That suits her game pretty well. I think that I just wasn't able to, like, play my game as well.  I wasn't moving that great, just was a tough day for me."

Wang marked her main draw debut at Wuhan with her first victory over an American player in 2017, having lost to Venus Williams twice and Shelby Rogers.

Earlier in the day, Madison Keys' first event since reaching her maiden Grand Slam final at the US Open came to an early end at the hand of fellow American Varvara Lepchenko, 6-2, 7-6(4).

Keys had been off the court since her thrilling fortnight at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, but found herself in for a tough test against the former World No.19, who knocked out French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko at the Rogers Cup earlier this summer.

Down a quick double break to start the match, No.10 seed Keys kept things closer in the second set, leading by a break and saving a match point to force a tie-break, but Lepchenko got out to a big lead in the ensuing sudden death and never looked back, sealing the upset on her second match point after an hour and 48 minutes on court.

In all, the 31-year-old converted four of seven break-point opportunities against the big-serving youngster, who took a medical timeout in the second set for the same left wrist that required a second surgery before Wimbledon, and won an impressive 69% of points behind her second serve.

Awaiting the qualifier in the second round could be another qualifier in Monica Niculescu, or 2016 French Open semifinalist Kiki Bertens.

The last time two Grand Slam finalists lost their next match was after 2005 Wimbledon when Venus Williams beat Lindsay Davenport.

After the match, Keys talked in detail about her wrist injury. "It’s been better, but the good news is that there is nothing really wrong with it," she said.

"It’s just lack of strength and unfortunately when you have surgery in the middle of the season, you don’t really have a lot of time to properly treat it to the point of it being 100% again.

"I have been dealing with it in the summer. But we kind of all knew that until we had a big solid chunk of time to get to strengthen it all of the time, it’s a difficult balance of how much do we do off of the court, on the court? It’s obviously frustrating."

Asked about adjusting her upcoming schedule because of the injury, Keys added: "I have to see how it is the next couple of days. See how it loosens up and if it feels better. But I have a pretty intense schedule right now. So we might have to go back to the drawing board a little bit on that."