ASB Classic: Second seed Sloane Stephens exits early, as rain sends tournament indoors

Former champion Sloane Stephens has joined the first-round exodus of seeded players, with incessant Auckland rain forcing the ASB Classic indoors on the third day.

As the weather forces a backlog of matches, organisers have been forced to utilise roofed practice courts with no spectators in an attempt to make up time lost.

But the delays have probably claimed a high-profile victim, with second-seeded American Stephens unable to stave off Spanish qualifier Rebeka Masarova, who booked the final spot available in the second round with a 6-3 7-6(5) victory.

Rebeka Masarova in action at the ASB Classic
Rebeka Masarova in action at the ASB Classic. Photo credit: Photosport

The encounter began late Tuesday, but managed only three games, before the rain suspended play for the day. When it resumed on Wednesday afternoon, 130-ranked Masarova completed a service break opportunity to gain the upperhand on her rival.

After wrapping up the first set, Masarova began the second strongly, before Stephens rattled off five straight games to lead 5-2, and seemed likely to force a third and deciding set.

But the Spaniard broke back to take the set into a tiebreak, which she dominated from the start. Trailling 6-2, Stephens staved off three matchpoints, but could not save a fourth.

Masarova will now take on Russian Anna Blinkova for a spot in the singles quarter-finals, while 37-ranked Stephens turns her preparation towards the Australian Open.

She joins fellow seeds American Bernarda Pera (fourth), Chinese Xiyu Wang (fifth) and American Madison Brengle (sixth) as casualties of the opening round.

But 2017 winner Lauren Davis and former Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin both eased into the next stage, where the latter takes on top seed Coco Gauff.

The tournament also lost its last hometown hope, with Paige Hourigan and American partner Sachia Vickery dropping their opening doubles match 7-5 6-3 to Czech Tereza Martincova and Romanian Elena-Gabriela Ruse.

Lauren Davis in action at the ASB Classic
Lauren Davis in action at the ASB Classic. Photo credit: Photosport

Ruse eliminated Kiwi qualifier Erin Routliffe from singles on Tuesday night, while Routliffe and American Caroline Dolehide could not live up to their doubles top seeding, falling at the first hurdle.

With no play possible on the outdoor centrecourt, legend Venus Williams, seeded Canadians Leylah Fernandez and Rebecca Marino, and US Open champion Emma Raducanu saw their second round singles matches rescheduled for Thursday.