2013 WTA season begins in Shenzhen
On an usually blustery winter day, WTA players looked sharp and played fiercely as palm fronds flailed in the gusty winds.
Hsieh Su-Wei of Chinese Taipei, the fourth seed in Shenzhen, opened the main draw by defeating Melinda Czink (HUN) 6-3, 6-2, explaining how important a good start to the season is for the players. She added, “In the first couple tournaments leading up to the Australian Open, the most important thing is to win some matches and get in lots of hitting so you can be prepared for the Open.”
Indeed, Hsieh looked ready early, as she jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in the first set, breaking Czink twice. The tide seemed to be turning as the left-handed Czink started stepping into the court, hitting flat, penetrating groundstrokes through the backcourt. Czink held her next two service games and broke Hsieh back twice to bring it back on serve 3-4, but Hsieh broke back to serve for the set. The players battled through several deuces in a nearly ten-minute game, but eventually Hsieh closed out the set with a clean backhand crosscourt winner that graced the line.
Stretched out, Hsieh hammered a running backhand down the line and chopped an abrupt forehand dropshot to break the first game of the second set. Ultimately, it was Hsieh’s ability to protect her own service game that proved the difference maker. After the players traded breaks in the second set for 2-all, Hsieh remained the steadier of the two, and pulled out to a 5-2 lead. She closed the match out with a served an ace as dozens of local fans swarmed courtside for her autograph. Hsieh continued her winning ways later that night with her doubles partner, Hsieh Shu-Ying (TPE), upsetting the fourth-seeded team of Timea Babos (HUN) and Mandy Minella (LUX) 7-6(3), 7-6(9).
The match of the day unfolded as a nail-biter between Garbine Muguruza (ESP) and Annika Beck (GER). The petite Beck appeared to be rolling to a routine win, using topspin to neutralize the six-foot Spaniard’s power, when Muguruza started showing her mettle.
“I had everything under control until 6-2, 5-1,” Beck said, “but then I started to play a bit more passive and she played quite well — she played more aggressively, and was going for everything, because of course if you’re down 2-6, 1-5, you have nothing to lose.” Beck noted after the match that it was the depth of Muguruza’s shots that troubled her. Indeed, Muguruza, hitting a heavy ball reminiscent of Lindsay Davenport, but paired with an agile athleticism and more natural movement, looked unstoppable as she blazed groundstrokes off both sides that tattooed the back of the baseline.
After Muguruza leveled the second set at 5-all, the tight Beck started to play a little looser, and broke to serve for the set, but Muguruza would not be denied and broke back to force a tiebreaker. Beck clawed to a 7-6 lead in the breaker, but Muguruza got the mini-break after dominating their baseline exchange, including another fearless groundstroke so close to the line that the rattled Beck nearly halted play to question the call. Muguruza hit a service winner to clinch the breaker 9-7. Muguruza finally blinked when serving 4-5 in the third set, when her no-fear no-margin-for-error approach finally cracked and she started missing the lines. Beck broke her to finish the match 6-2, 6-7 (7), 6-4.
“It was a mental fight at the end,” Beck said. “I didn’t change very much in the third set, just found my rhythm and relaxed during shots — not to be very afraid of her power and her serves, just knew if I fought back then I would win at the end.
Chinese wildcard Zheng Saisai impressed fans as she hung tough with the ninth-seed Monica Niculescu (ROM), falling 4-6, 5-7. Broken late in the first set to fall 4-6, the feisty darkhouse Zheng didn’t let up in the second set and after stepping into the court to dictate play, she earned a critical break point at 4-3 in the second set but failed to convert. The score now knotted at 4-all, with the inevitable letdown that comes from letting a chance to break slip away, Zheng let Niculescu mix up the spin and pace of their rallies, the Romanian hitting some nasty slice forehands to deny Zheng her rhythm and groove. Down 4-5, with Niculescu serving for the match, Zheng delighted fans with a never-say-die spirit as she hustled to improbably track down her opponents’ shots before firing a missile that the volleying Niculescu couldn’t handle to set up another break point. She eventually leveled the set at 5-all after sneaking in to knock a swinging backhand volley crosscourt and ignite the crowd. In the end, Niculescu was able to force errors from Zheng with strong shots of her own, edging out the win. With the gritty loss, Zheng proved she is a player to watch with a bright future.
With the final rounds of the qualifying tournament also underway, the Chinese qualifiers played well but were edged out by their opponents. Wang Qiang suffered a narrow defeat to Jessica Pegula (USA) in the final round of the qualifying tournament, 6-7 (7), 5-7. 42-year old WTA veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm (JPN) used angles to open up the court, running the lanky Zhang Yuxuan (CHN) from side to side to complete the rain-delayed match 6-4, 6-1. After defeating another Chinese qualifier, Zhou Yi-Miao, 6-2, 6-3, Date-Krumm earned her ticket to the main draw, where she will face Chinese wildcard Duan Yingying on December 31.
December 31st will also feature second-seed Marion Bartoli of France against Hong Kong wildcard Chan Wing-Yau, and China’s own Peng Shuai, seeded six, will take on qualifier Anne Keothavong (GBR). The doubles action will showcase six Chinese players, with the Chinese wildcard team of Han Xinyuan and Zhou Yi-Miao taking on Oksana Klashanikova (GEO) and Zheng Saisai (CHN), and Liu Wan-Ting (CHN) and Sun Sheng-Nan (CHN) versus Chang Kai-Chen (TPE) and the beloved Yan Zi (CHN), who medalled in the 2008 Beijing Olympics with partner Zheng Jie.
Li Na (CHN) will play her first round match on Tuesday, January 1, which happens to fall during the national Chinese holiday, Yuan Dan, giving fans the day off from work to watch their very own Grand Slam champion in action.
Tickets can be purchased on the ticket hotline: 0755-82841888 and 0755-82841666, or online at the Shenzhen Concert Hall website, szyyt.com, and Bo Yan Piao, boyanpiao.com. Free ticket delivery within Shenzhen can also be arranged at 0755-82841666 / 11185.
The event has an English and Chinese language website and it can be found at: ShenzhenOpenTennis.com
The Shenzhen Longgang Gemdale Open is organized by the Shenzhen Municipal Government, Shenzhen Municipal Bureau of Culture, Sport and Tourism, Longgang Municipal Government, CCTV-IMG Sports Management Company and the Chinese Tennis Association.
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