Japanese struggling with her confidence
TOKYO -- Japan's Ai Sugiyama suffered her fourth straight first-round defeat when she was beaten 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 by Italian Roberta Vinci at the Pan Pacific Open on Tuesday.
However, there were resounding victories for No. 6 seed Elena Likhovtseva and eighth-seeded Daniela Hantuchova in Tokyo.
No. 5 seed Sugiyama, who had lost at the first hurdle at the Gold Coast, Sydney and the Australian Open, suffered a second-set meltdown after a decent start against her 117th-ranked opponent.
"I think it's down to a lack of confidence," Sugiyama said with a shrug. "Nothing I worked on in practice clicked. Mentally I'm still nowhere near close enough."
Serbian Jelena Jankovic was another casualty in Tokyo as Czech Iveta Benesova came through 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 to knock out the No. 7 seed.
Slovakian Hantuchova overpowered Russian Alina Jidkova 6-1, 6-4, and Likhovtseva, also of Russia, demolished Spain's Arantxa Parra Santonja 6-0, 6-0 in another late match.
In other matches, Russian Maria Kirilenko beat China's Peng Shuai 6-3, 6-2 and Saori Obata trounced wild card Miho Saeki 6-0, 6-1 in an all-Japanese encounter.
Obata now plays top-ranked Lindsay Davenport, who is bidding to win a record fifth title at the $1.3 million event.
Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova and fellow Russians Svetlana Kuznetsova and Elena Dementieva are also among a quality field in Tokyo. The top four players received first-round byes.
Sharapova plays Maria Vento-Kabchi of Venezuela while U.S. Open champion Kuznetsova takes on Swiss qualifier Marie-Gayanay Mikaelian on Wednesday.
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