Mixed fortunes for British hopefuls at Guangzhou Open as WTA Tour returns to China

    Harriet Dart progressed at the Guangzhou Open but Jodie Burrage was beaten as the WTA Tour returned to China for the first time since early 2020.

    Harriet Dart. Harriet Dart.

    Dart brushed aside Germany's Jule Niemeier 6-3 6-2 in the opening round to set up a clash in the last 16 against Belgium's Greet Minnen, the seventh seed.

    While Burrage won a first set tie-break against Magda Linette, she lost her way from that point on as the Polish top seed prevailed 6-7 (3) 6-0 6-2.

    The WTA decided in April to end its boycott of China despite its demands over the welfare of former player Peng Shuai not being met.

    Tournaments were suspended in the country because of the coronavirus pandemic – this week's event is the first on the WTA since January 2020 – before controversy ensued over allegations made by Peng.

    The ex-Wimbledon doubles champion and world number one in the format caused a storm in November 2021 when she wrote a detailed post on social media making claims about a relationship with high-ranking Chinese official Zhang Gaoli.

    The post was swiftly removed and Peng disappeared from public view, sparking concern across the tennis world about her welfare.

    The WTA responded strongly to the situation, with chief executive Steve Simon saying the tour would not return to China unless there was an investigation into Peng's complaints and independent proof of her welfare.

    He admitted earlier this year neither of those stipulations were met but the WTA has suffered without the investment of China – by some distance the WTA's most lucrative market, with more tournaments there than in any other country.

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