GUANGZHOU, China — British qualifier Harriet Dart beat Jule Niemeier of Germany 6-3, 6-2 in the first round of the Guangzhou Open as elite women’s tennis returned to China on Monday four years after the event was last held.
Tournaments were canceled in China due to COVID-19 travel restrictions in 2020. The WTA then suspended its events in the country in December 2021 over concerns about Grand Slam champion Peng Shuai’s well-being after the Chinese player made sexual assault accusations against former vice premier Zhang Gaoli.
The WTA announced in April that it intended to return to China this season after assurances were received from those close to Peng that she was safe and well, and that “more progress could be made” by returning to the country than by staying away.
Top-seeded Magda Linette of Poland, ranked No. 27, lost the first set tie-breaker against Jodie Burrage before coming back to win 6-7 (3), 6-0, 6-2 in the day’s longest match lasting 2 hours, 20 minutes.