Wozniacki falls to qualifier in Brisbane opener

BRISBANE, Australia — Caroline Wozniacki’s first trip to the Brisbane International ended in a 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (1) first-round loss to Kazakhstan qualifier Ksenia Pervak on Monday. She quickly followed up by dismissing speculation about an engagement to golf No. 1 Rory McIlroy.

Wozniacki, who held the year-end No. 1 ranking in 2010 and 2011 but is yet to win a major title, had high-profile support from McIlroy in the crowd and there was a buzz around Pat Rafter Arena amid rumors the pair had become engaged in the offseason.

The 22-year-old Danish player was photographed with a new ring on her left hand as she arrived in Australia last week, sparking speculation of pending nuptials. She explained Monday that the ring was a gift.

“It was a Christmas present and it fit on this finger and I put it on, and all of a sudden I hear that I’m engaged. But I’m not,” she said. “So, yeah, it’s already twice we’ve had to shut down engagement rumors. Don’t worry, we will let you know if that time happens.”

On the court, Wozniacki raced to a 4-1 lead before finishing off the first set within a half hour. She started to struggle with her serve as she lost the second set and then had difficulty in the third countering powerful ground strokes from the left-handed Pervak in the first upset result of the tournament.

No. 9-ranked Samantha Stosur was also upset in a night match, losing 7-6 (4), 7-5 to No. 41 Sofia Arvidsson of Sweden to continue her run of poor form in her native Australia since winning the 2011 U.S. Open. Stosur lost her second match at the Brisbane tournament last year, then had back-to-back first-round losses at the Sydney International and the Australian Open.

With eight of the top 10 women in the draw, the Brisbane tournament was expected to provide a good chance to fine-tune for the Australian Open starting Jan. 14. Now Wozniacki and Stosur will head to Sydney hoping for some decent match practice.

“I fought until the end. Maybe didn’t play my best tennis today, but it’s tough to expect that from yourself in your first match back,” Wozniacki said. “Now I just have to play some practice matches with some of the other girls here and then go to Sydney and hopefully get a couple more there.”

In other first-round matches, fourth-seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany opened with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 win over Anna Tatishvili of Georgia, French Open finalist Sara Errani beat Russia’s Olga Puchkova 6-1, 6-3 and American Sloane Stephens beat Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 6-3.

Alize Cornet of France advanced to a second-round match against third-seeded Serena Williams with an opening 2-6, 6-3, 6-1 over Australian qualifier Bojana Bobusic, and Germany’s Sabine Lisicki opened with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Lucie Safarova of Czech Republic to set up a second-round match against top-ranked Victoria Azarenka.

The 103-ranked Pervak, who lost in the first round at 14 tournaments last year, including Brisbane, will play Urzula Radwanska of Poland on Tuesday. Pervak started to hit the lines in the second set against Wozniacki, showing match sharpness honed by playing in the qualifying tournament.

She was two points from victory, serving for the match at 5-3 and 30-15, but made a series of unforced errors to get broken and let the 10th-ranked Wozniacki get back into it.

Wozniacki held serve at love in the 12th game to force a tiebreaker but Pervak dominated from there, winning the first five points and securing the win with the first of her five match points when her rival missed with a timid forehand service return.

Stosur made 48 unforced errors and never settled into her rhythm after only two weeks of practice due to minor ankle surgery last month.

“Part of it can be put down to being a bit rusty and it’s the first match of the year,” she said. “I think a big part of it is that I haven’t done enough.”

In the men’s draw, fifth-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan beat Australia’s Marinko Matosevic 7-5, 6-2; sixth-seeded Florian Mayer of Germany beat Santiago Giraldo of Colombia 6-4, 6-4; Jarkko Nieminen of Finland had a 6-3, 2-6, 6-1 win over Julien Benneteau of France; and Marcos Baghdatis, the 2006 Australian Open finalist, defeated Australian wildcard entry Ben Mitchell 6-4, 6-4.

Hopman Cup

Djokovic, Ivanovic lead Serbia over Italy: In Perth, Australia, Novak Djokovic shook off jetlag to beat Andreas Seppi 6-3, 6-4 on Monday to help Serbia beat Italy 2-1 at the Hopman Cup. He then avoided injury after the match when a courtside barrier collapsed while signing autographs.

The divider hit Djokovic on his legs as it crashed, and several fans went tumbling to the ground. Djokovic briefly squatted in discomfort but later took to the court for the mixed doubles, won by Italy 7-6 (4), 6-4.

“It was a bit of a shock and I’m glad that the children involved are OK. I am fine,” said Djokovic, who was more concerned about his condition pre-match because of fatigue from jetlag.

Djokovic arrived in Perth less than 24 hours before he stepped on court, but still had a straight-sets win to add to Ana Ivanovic’s 6-0, 6-4 victory over Francesca Schiavone, giving Serbia a win in the group-stage of the mixed teams event.

“I arrived quite late last night and didn’t get long hours of sleep and felt this morning like I’m dream-walking,” Djokovic said. “But as the match went on I was managing to get my rhythm. I broke the ice after the first set and felt a little bit better.”

Djokovic got off to a good starting jumping out 2-0, but he later struggled to hold for 5-2. In the second set a double-fault gave Djokovic a break to lead 3-2, but he again struggled to maintain his lead and had to fight off four break points at 4-3 before completing his victory.

Earlier, Ivanovic faced the challenge of two break points in the opening game and it took her five break points to establish a 2-0 lead, but then she looked aggressive and confident as she swept through the remainder of the first set.

Schiavone took 36 minutes to win her first game and hold for 1-1 in the second set, and the Italian then offered a stronger challenge.

“It’s been an amazing start (to the season),” Ivanovic said. “That first game was a bit crucial but I managed to hold after saving a few break points and then I really got into the momentum and didn’t do too much wrong in that first set.

“The second set got tougher. She started playing better, Ivanovic added. “I still tried to be aggressive and I’m really happy I managed to win today.”

On Tuesday, The American team of John Isner and Venus Williams will take on Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Mathilde Johansson of France.

ASB Classic

Kuznetsova upset in first round: In Auckland, New Zealand, Svetlana Kuznetsova lost to unseeded Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands 7-6 (6), 6-2, 7-5 in swirling wind in the first round of the ASB Tennis Classic.

Kuznetsova, once ranked as high as No. 2, is a two-time Grand Slam winner. She lost to a player whose ranking climbed 120 places to 63 in 2012. Kuznetsova took an extended break after dropping the second set to receive treatment for a foot injury.

The wind on center court at the Auckland Tennis Center contributed to more than 100 unforced errors. But Bertens kept her composure in recording one of her best victories.

Unseeded American Jamie Hampton ousted defending champion Zheng Jie of China 7-5, 6-1.

In another upset, Pauline Parmentier of France ousted seventh-seeded Christina McHale of the U.S. 6-4, 6-1. McHale, whose ranking peaked at No. 24 in August before slipping to 33 at year’s end, also struggled in the wind.

Russia’s Elena Vesnina downed 18-year-old Canadian wild card Eugenia Bouchard, the junior Wimbledon champion, 7-5, 6-3. Former champion Yanina Wickmayer, seeded third, defeated Magdalena Rybarikova 7-6 (3), 6-2.

Greta Arn, the 2011 champion, lost 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 to Thailand’s Nudnida Luanganam in the final round of qualifying but gained a place in the main draw as a lucky loser. Arn will face top-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska after the withdrawal of injured Frenchwoman Kristini Mladenovic.