WUHAN: Playing her first match as the No. 1-ranked player in women's tennis, Angelique Kerber dropped the first set before recovering to beat Kristina Mladenovic 6-7 (4), 6-1, 6-4 on Tuesday to reach the third round of the Wuhan Open.
Kerber replaced Serena Williams atop the rankings with her run to the U.S. Open title, and then took time off before heading to China to start her Asian swing in Wuhan, where she had a bye in the first round.
The 28-year-old German didn't face a breakpoint in the second and third sets as she set up a third-round match against two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, who cruised to a 6-3, 6-1 win over Elina Svitolina.
Mladenovic "was playing very well today, especially in the first set," Kerber said. "The first match is always tough. But I'm happy to be back in China and to have won my first match here."
Defending champion Venus Williams broke Yulia Putintseva's serve seven times in a 6-3, 6-2 win that earned her a third-round match against No. 9-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova, who beat Madison Brengle, 6-0, 6-4.
No. 3-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska won eight of the last nine games in a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Ekaterina Makarova to notch her first win in three trips to the Wuhan tournament.
Radwanska has had success elsewhere in Asia over the last two seasons, picking up titles in Shenzhen, Tianjin, Tokyo and at the season-ending WTA championships in Singapore last year.
"I just hope I can play some more great tennis in China," Radwanska said.
In other second-round matches, 8th-seeded Madison Keys had a 6-3, 6-4 win over Caroline Garcia, Yaroslava Shvedova ousted No. 13 Roberta Vinci 7-5, 6-2 and Barbora Strycova rallied to beat Misaki Doi 5-7, 6-0, 6-2.