HONG KONG • Venus Williams suffered a shock exit in the second round of the WTA Hong Kong Open yesterday, having been comprehensively beaten 7-5, 6-2 by rising teenager Naomi Osaka.
Japan's top-ranked player, who had made headlines when she knocked German Angelique Kerber out of last month's US Open in the first round, reeled off eight consecutive games at one stage to power into the quarter-finals.
"She played well," said Williams, who has qualified for the WTA Finals Singapore later this month. "You know I made a few errors at 5-4 (in the first set) and after that, she played pretty flawless. I can only give her credit.
"I felt like I played offensively and hit really deep, hard balls, but she had the luck today and could return those balls even harder and deeper."
The 37-year-old briefly rallied to 5-2 after going 5-0 down in the second set, but Osaka, 19, refocused after a pep talk from her coach and closed out the match on her serve after 1hr 24min.
"Venus is someone I've respected and admired," said the world No. 64, who had not been born when the American reached her first Grand Slam final at the 1997 US Open.
"I've grown up watching her. Even though she is someone I admire, it's just another opponent at the end of the day, so I tried to focus hard."
She (Osaka) played well. You know I made a few errors at 5-4 (in the first set) and after that, she played pretty flawless. I can only give her credit. I felt like I played offensively... but she had the luck today.
VENUS WILLIAMS, world No. 5, taking her second-round defeat in the WTA Hong Kong Open on the chin.
At the Tianjin Open, China's Zhu Lin upset two-time Wimbledon champion and No. 2 seed Czech Petra Kvitova 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 in the first round yesterday.
The unseeded Zhu, 23, shrugged off a second-set turnaround and an attempted final-set comeback by Kvitova to seize the first top-20 victory of her career in 2hr 15min.
"Obviously it is an amazing match and it is the biggest win of my career, I am just so happy," Zhu, who is ranked world No. 113, told the WTA official website.
"I played so relaxed today. In the second set, I was serving for the match, but she played great to win this, and then I came back in the third set and I played like my first set."
Zhu will play Hsieh Su-wei in the second round, after the Taiwanese dispatched Chinese qualifier Lu Jingjing 6-2, 6-2.
Five-time Grand Slam champion Russia's Maria Sharapova got off to a flying start, racing past Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania in her opening match 6-4, 6-2.
The former world No. 1 was thrilled to get the win after a long wait to begin the tournament with rain washing out all the matches on Tuesday.
"It's been a long wait for everyone, it hasn't been easy," she said. "I had a first practice outdoors, and then I think it rained for 70 hours straight, unfortunately for the players."
"The good thing about this tournament is it has indoors, it's pretty state-of-the-art, and I trained at the National Tennis Centre as well, which was very impressive, so I was still able to maintain good practice sessions."