Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis has been bounced in the opening round of the PTT Thailand Open, marking his eighth opening round loss of the season. Making his first appearance following his opening round loss at the U.S. Open back at the end of August, Gulbis was expected to cruise in his opening match in Bangkok as he came up against Italian qualifier Simone Bolelli. However, once more Gulbis struggled mentally as he lost both sets in a tie-break, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5). Ironically, the loss came on the back of one of the 23-year-old’s best serving performances of the season, pulling out 19 aces and winning 73 percent of points on his first serve. However, Bolelli would reveal the frailties of Gulbis on his second serve, with the Italian winning 15 of 26 second return points. World no. 47 Gulbis will remain in Asia as he now heads to Tokyo to prepare for next week’s Rakuten Japan Open, where he will have his work cut out for him if he hopes to go deep into the draw, with four of the world’s top ten players also appearing in Tokyo.
Gulbis’ Latvian compatriot Anastasija Sevastova has been faring no better than Gulbis, pulling out injured halfway through the second set of her opening match at the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, Japan. Playing against Barbora Zahlavova Strycov of the Czech Republic, Sevastova lost the first set in a tie-break, 7-6 (2), before pulling out midway through the second set when she found herself trailing 4-1, appearing to be suffering from a hip injury. It is just the latest in a string of bad results for the Latvian, who has never quite reached the heights expected of her since she made the round of 16 at the Australian Open back in January. Instead, her year has been compiled of early round exits, seeing her world ranking drop to a season low 80 at the beginning of this week, after being as high as 36 at the end of January. At the time of print, it was unclear as to just how severe the hip injury is and whether or not Sevastova will attempt to qualify for the China Open next week, as she has been scheduled to do.
The news in Tokyo was, however, better for Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi, who on Wednesday afternoon was scheduled to take on tournament no. 1 seed Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark in the round of 16. Having struggled for form in an injury-riddled season, the appearance in the final 16 in Tokyo may finally be an indication of changing fortunes for Kanepi, who has not been past the second round of a WTA tournament since the French Open back in early June. To get her confidence back up, Kanepi traveled to Italy a fortnight ago to compete in a second tier ITF event. By making the semifinals there, the tournament seems to have served its purpose if her results this week are anything to go by. In the opening round, Kanepi dropped her first set to tournament 15th seed Flavia Penetta of Italy, 3-6, before surging back in the subsequent two sets to victor, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. The second round match for Kanepi would then resemble something akin to a walk in the park as she cruised past American qualifier and world no. 97 Coco Vandeweghe, 6-2, 6-2, to set up her third round encounter with Wozniacki.