Kerber and Garcia through in China as Halep succumbs to injury
Angelique Kerber and defending champion Caroline Garcia each won at the China Open on Sunday, but world number one Simona Halep was forced to retire.
Reigning Wimbledon champion Kerber made light work of Kristina Mladenovic, while Garcia was worked hard by Wang Yafan, as a back issue forced Halep out.
Daria Kasatkina was also hindered by injury and forced to withdraw in the second set against Laura Siegemund, but the rest of the seeds in action progressed.
Sloane Stephens fought back to defeat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, compatriot Madison Keys saw off Bernarda Pera, while Kiki Bertens thrashed Sorana Cirstea.
KERBER KEEN TO END ON A HIGH
With the season winding down, Kerber is determined to ensure she ends a successful year - in which she triumphed at the All England Club - by challenging once more.
That bid was boosted by a comprehensive victory on Sunday, as she dropped only four games.
"There are just a few tournaments left. For me, it's just important to be looking now from day to day and trying to give everything I have left for every single match," she said in quotes published on the WTA's website.
"Of course, the last tournament is then [the WTA Finals] in Singapore, but right now I'm just focusing here on playing as well as I can in Beijing."
DEFENDING CHAMP DETERMINED TO IMPROVE
Garcia needed over three hours to defeat Wang and continue her title defence, but she was just glad to get through.
"I wanted this win. I wanted a chance to improve in the next match after it was very close to win it or lose," she said after a see-saw 7-6 (12-10) 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 thriller.
"Of course, if I would have lost that one, it would be very hard. I found the way to win it. I'm happy about that."
HALEP WORRIED BY BACK WOES
Reigning French Open champion Halep has struggled with a back injury in recent weeks, but she was particularly concerned by the way it affected her as she retired on Sunday when trailing Ons Jabeur 6-1.
"I'm just worried now. I feel sad that I couldn't finish," she said. "That's why I stopped, because I felt like it's getting worse if I continue.
"It's really tough when you have a back injury because you cannot bend, you cannot react at the balls. I couldn't play."