Australian hope Samantha Stosur made a winning start as Great Dane Caroline Wozniacki closed in on the year-end world No.
1 ranking on the opening day of the WTA Championships in Doha.
Stosur got one back on her French Open final conqueror Francesca Schiavone, recovering from a diabolical start to overpower the Italian 6-4 6-4 after top seed Wozniacki blitzed an ailing Elena Dementieva 6-1 6-1 in 53 minutes.
Russian second seed Vera Zvonareva crunched struggling Serb Jelena Jankovic 6-3 6-0 in the only other match on day one of the eight-woman round-robin event at the Khalifa Tennis Centre.
Stosur, the first Australian woman since Wendy Turnbull in 1985 to qualify for the season-ending singles championship, won just three points in the first four games to quickly fall behind 4-0 against Schiavone.
But the fifth seed steamed back to win six straight games to take the opening set before grabbing the decisive break in the ninth game of the second and serving out the match after one hour, 33 minutes.
Stosur pocketed a cool $US200,000 ($A202,000) for her day’s efforts – $US100,000 for the win and another $US100,000 merely for turning up.
Most importantly, Stosur picked up a bagful of valuable rankings points and progressed to within one more group win of a probable semi-final appearance in the Qatar capital.
Next up for Stosur on Wednesday (5am Thursday AEDT) is Wozniacki, who herself requires only one more round-robin win to clinch the top ranking for 2010.
Despite the sweltering conditions, Wozniacki barely raised a sweat in dispatching Dementieva, who not only carried an ankle injury into the event but also complained of feeling sick.
“I am still suffering from an illness that affected me last week and I had medical treatment after the match today when I received an IV (drip),” the Russian said in a statement.
“I had difficulty breathing during the match, felt dizzy and tingling and felt like I didn’t have any power.
“I finished the match but I had a really hard time. There were moments I felt I was going to give up, but I was able to push through.”
Jankovic has been battling a sinus problem, as well as back and ankle injuries, and proved no match for Zvonareva, the only player in Doha with any chance of snatching the top spot from Wozniacki.
In addition to hoping Wozniacki loses both her remaining pool matches against Stosur and Schiavone, Zvonareva probably needs to complete the tournament undefeated to deny the 20-year-old Dane.
“I will try to do my best, and then we will see. I’m not thinking about anything else yet,” said the Wimbledon and US Open runner-up.
“I have to go out there and perform my best. If I don’t, it’s very difficult to win matches here.”