Wuhan - US Open winner Sloane Stephens suffered a shock defeat at
the hands of China's Wang Qiang in the first round of the Wuhan Open on Monday,
hours after fellow Flushing Meadows finalist Madison Keys tumbled out.
Stephens, the 14th seed, lost 6-2, 6-2 in her first WTA
event since her surprise victory against Keys in New York.
Despite a strong fight by Stephens in the second set, Wang
- spurred on by the home crowd in the 15,000-capacity stadium - proved too
strong for the 24-year-old American.
"I didn't play a great match. But my opponent played
very well," Stephens told a post-match press conference.
"I mean, it's difficult. It's the end of the year. Even
though I played five tournaments, I feel like I played 25."
Stephens, who ranks number 17 in the world, added she had
been taking it easy since her US Open win.
"I went to see my grandparents. So no partying for me.
I don't party. I don't drink. I don't do any of that stuff," she added.
Keys also crashed out at the first hurdle in the hot and
steamy Chinese city, losing to US qualifier Varvara Lepchenko after struggling
to overcome a longstanding wrist injury.
The 22-year-old American 10th seed fell 6-2, 7-6 in what was
also her first WTA tournament since the Flushing Meadows final.
Keys, the world number 12, called a medical timeout early in
the second set and looked close to tears as she examined her left wrist, which
has twice needed surgery in the past.
Keys had chances to level the match in the second set but
Lepchenko saved two set points to hold at 5-5, before taking the tiebreak 7-4.
"The strength (of my wrist) has been the biggest
issue... I've been dealing with it over the summer," she told journalists.
"But we kind of all knew it (would be like this) until
we had a solid chunk of time to strengthen it."
Elsewhere, Agnieszka Radwanska, the ninth seed, beat
Magdalena Rybarikova 6-4, 7-5.
Lepchenko, ranked 79 in the world, will play either Kiki
Bertens of the Netherlands or Romanian Monica Niculescu in the second round.
Wang, ranked 57, will play Romanian Sorana Cirstea.
Results of singles matches from the WTA Wuhan Open on Monday (x denotes seeding):
Qiang Wang (CHN) bt Sloane Stephens (USA x14) 6-2, 6-2
Agnieszka Radwanska (POL x9) bt Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK) 6-4, 7-5
Varvara Lepchenko (USA) bt Madison Keys (USA x10) 6-2, 7-6 (7/4)
Elise Mertens (BEL) bt Naomi Osaka (JPN) 6-4, 1-6, 6-4
Darya Kasatkina (RUS) bt Alison Riske (USA) 6-1, 2-6, 6-3