BEIJING - Ana Ivanovic didn't dare to discuss her chances of reaching the end-of-season WTA Finals on Saturday despite making a rip-roaring start to the China Open.
After a slow opening, the former world number one reeled off 10 games in a row to beat a shell-shocked Casey Dellacqua 6-4, 6-0 and set up a second-round match with Venus Williams. A raft of late-season injuries and retirements have raised the chances of ninth-ranked Ivanovic reaching the year-ender in Singapore but she refused to jinx herself by discussing it publicly. "To be honest I'm not looking that far ahead. Every time you think about that it kind of backfires," she said. "You have to really stay humble and work hard for each match. We see there are so many tough opponents out there... so you really have to keep your head in the right place and play like you practice."
Ivanovic is currently about 800 points adrift in the race for the eight-player WTA Finals later this month, with 1,000 points going to the winner in Beijing. However, several players including Maria Sharapova are carrying injuries, and top-ranked Serena Williams has already withdrawn for the rest of the season seeking extra rest.
Against 112th-ranked Dellacqua, sixth seed Ivanovic made life hard for herself when she was twice broken in the first set although she soon hit back with breaks of her own. A pep talk from her trainer at 4-3 down proved the turning point and the former world number one swept through the next 10 games to win in just over an hour.
"I think I calmed down a bit and take more time, and I started to do things a little bit better," she said. "I thought that I was playing well but I was rushing... but then after I really tried to be patient and make her move, and I started to serve better too."
Earlier two-time Beijing champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, 30, found age was no barrier when she won 6-4, 6-4 win against Germany's Carina Witthoeft, who is 10 years her junior. Brazil's Teliana Pereira, winner of two titles this year, beat Alexandra Dulgheru 7-5, 6-2, and Timea Bacsinszky came from a set down to oust Camila Giorgi 1-6, 6-4, 6-3.
Elsewhere world number one and five-time winner Novak Djokovic entertained the crowds in broken Chinese as he led children in a public coaching clinic, before the men's main draw starts on Monday.