Illness and rain put damper on San Diego Open

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The second day of main-draw play at the San Diego Open started with Elena Rybakina’s withdrawal due to illness and ended in a rain suspension of Coco Gauff’s night match. Between those events, top WTA players battled it out on the courts in a late-season bid to get their rankings up, and in some cases, secure a spot in the WTA Finals.

American Sloane Stephens defeated Jil Teichman 6-1 7-6(2) in the first round. Having grown up in Los Angeles, just north of San Diego, Stephens is excited to play in front of a home crowd on the same courts where Jessica Pegula beat her in a junior tournament many years ago.

In the second round, Stephens will face Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus. Looking ahead the American wildcard said, “the match will be a tough one and I’m looking forward to it. Obviously playing here at the end of the season, we’re just trying to survive and to advance.” Sabalenka, ranked seventh in the Race, is looking to lock in points this week to secure her spot in the Finals.

Donna Vekic took out fifth seed Maria Sakkari 7-6(3) 6-1 in the first round, bringing her head-to-head to a 5:2 lead. Sakkari was downtrodden but open with the press after the defeat, saying that meeting with media actually helps her process losses and confront weak spots. “I’m still trying to find my form and to handle the stress and the expectations that I have been struggling with a lot.” The Greek smiled as she added, “but at least I’m enjoying tennis a lot more than earlier this season.”

Starting off the night session after a rain delay, Garbine Muguruza withdrew from her first-round match against Zheng Qinwen down 0-5 in the first set, after getting treatment for a gastrointestinal illness. Zheng was a lucky loser to replace Elena Rybakina, who withdrew earlier in the day with an unspecified illness.

Zheng faces Iga Swiatek next in the second round. The twenty-year-old from China started the year ranked 125 but has fought her way to 28. She took a set off Swiatek at Roland Garros and is ready for the match, telling reporters, “the key to play against Iga is to fight until the end and just play my game, she will play hers.” Asked if she would say she feels free going into the match as an underdog, Zheng countered, “I would not use the word free. I will use the words ‘trying to give everything I have,’ because I know that I have the possibility to do something there.” The two will play each other Thursday.

The rain continued to be a problem later in the night. Coco Gauff was leading Robin Montgomery 6-3 3-2 when strong downpour interrupted play for a second time. After taking the players off court for some time, the tournament decided to hold the rest of the first-round match until the following day.

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