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Guangzhou Open: GB's Harriet Dart wins opener as WTA returns to China

Britain's Harriet Dart won her opening match of the Guangzhou Open as the Woman's Tennis Association resumed competition in China.

The 27-year-old beat Germany's Jule Niemeier 6-3 6-2 to reach the last 16.

Compatriot Jodie Burrage was knocked out by Polish top seed Magda Linette.

The Guangzhou Open is the first WTA event since January 2020 to take place in China. Covid-19 disruption of the tour was followed by a boycott over allegations made by Peng Shuai.

Former doubles world number one Peng said in November 2021 she was "forced" into a sexual relationship with former China vice-premier Zhang Gaoli.

As a result, the WTA suspended its end-of-year events in China and said it would not return until there was an investigation and it had proof of Peng's safety.

She later denied making the allegations though she has not been seen outside China since. Zhang has not commented publicly on the allegation.

In April 2023, the WTA announced it would resume tournaments in China having accepted an investigation into the sexual assault allegations will not be carried out by the Chinese government.

"We've been in this for 16 months and we are convinced that at this point our requests will not be met," WTA chief executive Steve Simon told BBC Sport at the time.

"To continue with the same strategy doesn't make sense and a different approach is needed. Hopefully, by returning, more progress can be made."

Qualifier Dart will face Belgian seventh seed Greet Minnen in the last 16 on Wednesday.

Burrage took the first set in her match but went down 6-7 (3-7) 6-0 6-2 to Linette.