The top seed Karolina Pliskova stuttered in the second set but managed to beat Varvara Lepchenko 6-2 6-7(3) 6-3 to open her campaign at the Tianjin Open where she moved to the semifinals in her only previous appearance in 2015.
The World No.7, who accepted a wildcard into the draw needing to go a long way in her bid to secure a place at
the WTA Finals in Singapore for a third straight year, sealed the 44th win of the season against the American who suffered the third straight defeat in three matches against Top 10 opponents in 2018.
Pliskova will now face Polona Hercog bidding to extend her 3-1 record in the head to head and reach the quarterfinals or above for the 11th time in 21 tournaments played this year. Pliskova, excellent in three setters this season as she owns a 15-4 record, lost the seventh of the 19 tiebreaks played but she completed the seventh win in the last ten matches against lefty opponents to extend to 4-0 her record in the head to head against the American, left to regret the five unconverted games.
Pliskova, who posted the 250th main draw victory of her career at the China Open, suffered the second straight defeat against Qiang Wang in Beijing and asked to revive her season in Tianjin as she performed strongly in Asia last year, reaching the semifinals at WTA Finals, the quarterfinals at both Tokyo and Wuhan, and the round 16 at Beijing.
No.5 seed Hsieh Su-Wei faced Ajla Tomljanovic for the third time in the last four weeks and extended to 2-1 their head to head as she completed a 7-6 7-5 win. Crafty and resilient Taiwanese changed pace and spin to frustrate the Australian.
Hsieh, who reached the quarter-finals in her debut in Tianjin in 2014 and lost to Lin Zhu in the second round last year, won the sixth tiebreak out of 13 played to open her third campaign in Tianjin. In the second round, she will aim to claim the first victory over qualifier Veronika Kudermetova who beat her in straight sets in the second qualifying round in Stuttgart earlier this year.
In her debut match in Tianjin, the Russian extended to 3-0 her unbeaten run in 3-set matches this season. The world No.123 completed the seventh comeback win after losing the first set as she defeated 5-7 6-1 7-5 Alison Riske to claim the seventh career success over a Top 100 player.
The 2014 champion and 2016 runner-up was up a break at 4-2 in the decider but she suffered the tenth defeat in 16 three-setters in 2018 at WTA level while the Russian won eight close games and clinched eight breaks from 11 looks.
Magda Linette, whose tennis idol was Monica Seles, equaled her best result in Tianjin as she moved to the second round for the fourth year in a row. The Pole completed the third comeback victory beating Evgeniya Rodina 2-6 6-1 6-4 after a streak of three consecutive defeats.