BEIJING, China - Qualifier Christina McHale shocked US Open champion Sloane Stephens in a first round, all-American clash at the China Open on Monday, 6-3, 6-0.
Little went Stephens' way over the course of the 65-minute encounter, as the American lost the last seven games of the match to her compatriot ranked over 50 places below her.
"It's definitely a big win for me. I'm just really excited to be moving on to the next round here," "I think Sloane wasn't at her best today, but I served well, got a lot of balls back and returned well. I just stayed the course throughout the match."
The No.15 seed struggled with her consistency on serve and off the ground in the match, making 33 unforced errors in 15 games and losing serve six times.
Though she landed 71% of her first serves overall, she was unable to translate that mark to points won, as McHale won over 50% of the points when returning Stephens' first serve, and over 60% of points on the second.
"It was just a tough day," Stephens said after the match. "There's not much to say about it. It was obviously not a great match, so I just want to forget about it, move on, and try to have a better level for the next tournament."
The match was delayed by several hours at the start due to rain in Beijing which wreaked havoc on the morning on the outside courts.
"It was definitely a little tricky. Every time we were about to go out, it started raining again," McHale said of the conditions. "It was great once we got out there. The court was really nice, I really liked the atmosphere. There was a good amount of people watching, and it was a really great match for me."
Added Stephens: "It affects both players, but she obviously just handled it a little bit better. It's unfortunate, but it happens."
The New Jersey native was the first to settle in of the two Americans in the match, ending a streak of three straight breaks to begin the match with the first hold to lead 3-1.
Though Stephens never again faced break point in the opener after losing serve in a marathon, five-deuce third game of the match, she was unable to create a break point chance for the duration of the first set and McHale navigated her way to a one-set lead.
The second set was all McHale, who rolled through to the first four games to take a firm command of the match.
In a lengthy fifth game, where McHale faced two break points for the first time since the second game of the match, the World No.71 held after five deuces and claimed the match in the next game after building a quick 0-40 lead.
The win for McHale is the second in two career matches against her compatriot, as she also scored a bagel in the final set of a 6-4, 4-6, 6-0 win at the Citi Open three years ago.
She advances to take on Sorana Cirstea, who defeated Mona Barthel 7-6(4), 6-1 in Saturday's first round.
"She's been playing well lately, so it'll be a tough one," McHale said of her Romanian foe. "I'm going to enjoy this one a little bit and then get ready for tomorrow."