Beijing: Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal — vying for the world’s top ranking — powered through their openers at the China Open on Tuesday but women’s top seed Serena Williams stumbled her way into the third round.
Djokovic signalled his intent to reclaim the title he won in the Chinese capital last year, sweeping aside Lukas Rosol 6-0, 6-3. The Serbian world number one — and top seed — defeated his Czech challenger in just 53 minutes.
Nadal, who could unseat Djokovic in the world rankings depending what happens in Beijing, faced slightly more resistance from Santiago Giraldo, with the Spaniard claiming a 6-2, 6-4 win in about 90 minutes.
“Today is an important victory for me against an important opponent like Giraldo,” Nadal said.
“If I’m able to keep playing well every day and at the same level I will have the chance to be there, to be number one in the future.”
The second seed will now face German Philipp Kohlschreiber, while Djokovic will meet Spain’s Fernando Verdasco in the second round.
Third seed David Ferrer won his opening match against Canadian Vasek Pospisil 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7/2), setting up a second-round clash with Marinko Matosevic, who beat France’s Julien Benneteau 7-6 (7/5), 6-3.
Fifth seed Richard Gasquet and sixth seed Stanislas Wawrinka both safely negotiated their way through.
France’s Gasquet defeated Florian Mayer of Germany 6-3, 7-6 (7/2), while Switzerland’s Wawrinka needed three sets to overcome Italian Andreas Seppi 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Verdasco claimed victory over Somdev Devvarman of India 7-6 (8/6), 6-3 and American Sam Querrey defeated Mikhail Youzhny of Russia 7-6 (7/3), 6-3.
Eighth seed American John Isner beat crowd favourite Wu Di 5-7, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3.
In the women’s draw Williams, the world number one, only showed rare moments of her trademark power-play and at times appeared agitated as she overcame Italian Francesca Schiavone 6-4, 7-5 in her second-round match.
The American gained the upper hand in the first set via a mistake from her opponent, who double-faulted on set point.
But Williams was forced to become more aggressive in the second set after her serve was broken in the first game by Schiavone, Italy’s first Grand Slam winner, at Roland Garros in 2010, and the current world number 50.
As the competition intensified both players’ tempers threatened to boil over, with Williams ranting and Schiavone smashing balls into the barriers at the side of the court.
But Williams seemed calmer — and quieter — as she closed in on a hard-earned victory.
“I was able to save some energy, so I started walking slower and taking my time more. When I did that, I actually won three or four games in a row,” she said.
Williams will face Maria Kirilenko in the next round after the Russian beat Urszula Radwanska 6-4, 6-4.
It was another storming performance from Chinese star Li Na, who swept aside Serbian Bojana Jovanovski 6-0, 6-1.
The 31-year-old fourth seed and crowd favourite said she felt under less pressure this year, after twice failing to get past the semi-final stage previously at China’s biggest tennis tournament.
The 2011 French Open winner’s decisive victory earns her a last-16 tie against Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki.
The German booked her place with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Serena’s sister Venus, who failed to replicate her recent form at the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, where she reached the semi-finals.
The 12th seed Carla Suarez Navarro defeated American Lauren Davis 6-4, 6-2 to seal her place in the last 16, while seventh seed Angelique Kerber dumped out teenage Briton Laura Robson 6-1, 6-2.