BEIJING (AFP) – US Open champions Serena Williams and Marin Cilic powered through their openers at the US$5.4 million China Open Monday, with the women’s number one crushing her opponent after being 5-0 down.
Spaniard Silvia Soler-Espinosa looked to be cruising to a memorable victory against the power-hitting American in Beijing as she raced to a five-game advantage within 20 minutes.
But Williams’ response was ruthless, taking seven consecutive games to clinch the set with an incredible show of force.
A startled Soler-Espinosa took two games in the following set, but the number one seed in Beijing closed in on victory within 73 minutes with a 7-5, 6-2 scoreline.
It was a devastating comeback and a clear statement of intent from Williams, who fell at the first hurdle at the Wuhan Open last week after retiring from her game with a viral illness.
The reigning champion in Beijing won her sixth US Open earlier this month, the 18th Grand Slam title of her career.
Elsewhere in Beijing, seeds Lucie Safarova and Ana Ivanovic made it through their first-round matches.
Serb Ivanovic, a former world number one, defeated Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic 6-2, 6-1.
The ninth seed in Beijing will play another Swiss player, Romina Oprandi, in the second round.
Thirteenth seed Czech player Safarova beat Italian Camila Giorgi 7-6 (7/3) 6-4 in her opening match.
In the men’s competition fourth seed Cilic did not drop a serve in his defeat of Chinese wildcard Yan Bai at the Olympic Park in the Chinese capital.
The Croatian, playing his first game since his convincing 6-3, 6-3, 6-3, victory over Japan’s Kei Nishikori in New York, took 81 minutes to dispose of his opponent 6-3, 6-4.