January 1, 2014

No. 1 and 4 Doubles Seeds Also Ousted; Li Advances Easily




January 1, 2014 - Shenzhen, CHINA. Tennis fans rung in Yuan Dan, the Chinese holiday marking the first day of the calendar year, by filling the Shenzhen Open stands to watch WTA stars begin their 2014 campaigns. Energized by the promise and hope of the new year, many players took the court for both singles and doubles on the fourth day of play as umbrellas speckled the stadium, shielding spectators from the Shenzhen sun. Little did they know the upsets the day would bring.


The top three singles seeds ushered in 2014 on Center Court, but only one would advance. The 2013 Shenzhen Open finalist and 2014 third seed Klara Zakopalova (CZE) opened play with a tumultuous match against Patricia Mayr-Achleitner (AUT), tumbling out of contention for the 2014 crown with a 6-7(2), 4-6 loss. The 92nd-ranked Mayr-Achleitner plagued the 35th-ranked Zakopalova with her penetrating groundstrokes, the intense Austrian barking “Come on!” after nearly every point she won. In contrast, the uncharacteristically lackadaisical Zakopalova looked flat as she sought refuge in the shade between games from the unseasonably warm sun.


Betrayed by a 48% first-serve percentage in the first set (and symptomatic of her overall malaise), Zakopalova got broken to open the second and trailed for the rest of the match. Shaking her head in distaste at her caliber of play, Zakopalova managed to stave off Mayr-Achleitner’s first match point with high-percentage tennis before attacking with a closing forehand crosscourt winner. After knotting the score at deuce against the serving Mayr-Achleitner, Zakopalova tightened up on a forehand, which clipped the bottom of the tape to give Mayr-Achleitner her second match point. An errant backhand from Zakopalova into the net sealed the upset.


Still flushed from her victory, Mayr-Achleitner glowed in her on-court interview: “What a great start to the new year. Great atmosphere, great people. It’s amazing to be here.”


With the upset still reverberating through the stadium, the crowd erupted as Chinese megastar LI Na took the court against Nadiya Kichenok. The defending Shenzhen Open champion and WTA World No. 3 put on a center court clinic, dismissing the Ukrainian 6-1, 6-4 in a concise hour and 22 minutes. Li sped around the court, achieving great depth on her groundstrokes, as China’s first Grand Slam singles semifinalist, ZHENG Jie, looked on from a courtside corner. Zheng was flanked by her Shenzhen shadow, young doubles partner WANG Yafan.


With second seed Sara Errani’s near first-round upset at the hands of ZHENG Saisai (CHN) still ringing in her ears, her grueling 2-6, 7-6(7), 6-3 encounter with Vania King (USA) proved to be the match of the tournament thus far. With Errani, currently ranked with partner Roberta Vinci (ITA) as the WTA No. 1 doubles team, and King, a 2010 Wimbledon and US Open doubles champion with partner Yaroslava Shvedova (KAZ), the doubles prowess of both players translated into beautiful shotmaking and astounding coverage as they crisscrossed the court.


As the lights came on in the stadium, sneakers streaked from corner to corner and baseline to net. King broke early in the second, stretching out to a 4-1 lead. However, it seemed the steady Errani would erase all of King’s chances as she managed to get the match back on serve. Every point a battle, night fell as the players travailed. King kept fighting, even after falling down 2-5 in the tiebreaker. She played brilliantly to stave off two match points, choosing to step in as the aggressor, yanking Errani from side to side as she closed to net, knocking volleys into the open court to get ahead and then take the tiebreaker.


With temperatures plummeting, the points shortened in the third as the weary players lost speed. King broke for 3-1, but errors allowed Errani to take the break right back. After King held for 4-3 after two hours and 30 minutes of play, she received medical treatment on her upper right groin. Both players framed a couple shots as they returned to play, but King out-steadied Errani to capture the break. As she served for the match at 30-all, possible gamesmanship entered as Errani took a long walk to the chair to change rackets, receiving a time violation warning from the chair. She defended one match point, but another error gave King a second chance; Errani hit another groundstroke that was called long but she challenged the call rather than concede the nail-biter outright. The call stood, and Errani fell out of contention.


After the match, the gracious King said, “Sara is a great player, I really didn’t expect to win today. I just wanted to play my game, stay aggressive and focus on every point. I think I was a little lucky.” King continued on to thank the fans, “Thank you so much for coming out. You guys were supporting both players but thank you so much for supporting me as well. I always play well in China.”


Barbora Zahlavova Strycova (CZE) took out the seventh seeded ZHENG Jie in a frosty night match 6-0, 7-6(6). Zheng, thrown by her opponent’s variety of shots, recovered to get on the board for 1-2 in the second as she started getting more depth on her shots. Measuring the ball on her racket, Zheng began to move Zahlavova Strycova from side to side -- and straight into a tiebreaker. Zheng seemed poised to run away with the breaker when at 4-0 -- with Zahlavova Strycova in position to play the ball -- one of Zheng’s deep groundstrokes was called out. Zheng challenged, which confirmed that the ball had squarely hit the left baseline. As rules indicate, they went to replay the point, but regretfully Zheng double-faulted. This proved to be the beginning of the end. Zahlavova Strycova won the next five points in a row, and though Zheng fended off a match point with a crosscourt passing shot that sent her opponent skidding to the ground in a stabbing volley attempt, on the next point she sprayed an overly aggressive forehand just wide after controlling most of the punishing rally. Fans were left to wonder what might have been s Zahlavova Strycova closed out the match with a service winner up the T.


Eighth seed Annika Beck (GER) had her hands full with the tough Viktorija Golubic (SUI), needing three sets to defeat the qualifier 6-3, 5-7, 6-3. Jana Cepelova (SVK) finally eliminated the dangerous qualifier Anna-Lena Friedsam (GER) 6-4, 6-1, who had knocked out fourth-seeded Bojana Jovanovski (SRB) in the first round.


After Zakopalova’s doubles partner Monica Niculescu (ROM) took out Taiwan’s CHAN Yung-Jan 2-6, 6-3, 6-0, the duo returned to topple the number one seeded team of ZHANG Shuai (CHN) and ZHENG Saisai (CHN), 6-3, 6-4 in an hour and 20 minutes.


Mayr-Achleitner continued her triumphant start to 2014, returning to the court with partner Johanna Konta (GBR) to upset the tournament’s fourth seeded team, Chan and Janette Husarova (SVK), 6-3, 6-2. Ukrainian twins Nadiya and Lyudmyla Kichenok advanced to the quarterfinals on a walkover as the second seeded team, Timea Babos (HUN) and Petra Martic (CRO), withdrew; Babos had not recovered from the gastroenteritis that had her retire from the singles the day prior, down 0-6, 0-2 to Nadiya.


Beginning at noon on January 2nd, two Chinese stars will take Center Court for the quarterfinals: fifth seed PENG Shuai (CHN) will seek to dispatch Cepelova while No. 1 seed LI Na will take on Niculescu in their second career meeting. Li will need to concentrate against the oft-slicing Niculescu, whose nasty forehand slice has felled many an opponent. When Li was asked what she wanted to say about avenging her 4-6, 0-6 loss to Niculescu in the first round of the 2011 China Open, she replied: “That match was a long time ago, and time changes things. As far as the need for revenge goes, ask me again tomorrow if I lose.”


Beck faces a tough task as she seeks to improve upon her 2013 Shenzhen Open quarterfinal appearance by defeating Mayr-Achleitner to advance to the semis. Niculescu and Zakopalova will take on Zheng and Wang in the lone doubles match of the day. In the other singles quarterfinal, the relatively fresh-legged Zahlavova Strycova will take on King, likely to be feeling the effects of her two hour 41-minute marathon.


Tickets to the Shenzhen Open, ranging from RMB 100-880, can be purchased on the ticket hotline: 0755-82841888 and 0755-82841666, or online at the Shenzhen Concert Hall website, www.szyyt.com, and Bo Yan Piao, www.boyanpiao.com. Free ticket delivery within Shenzhen can also be arranged at 0755-82841666 / 11185.


Fans can follow the later rounds on television, as CCTV will cover the singles semifinals on Friday January 3rd, broadcasting the 14:00 match live, and will show the 12:00 match on a tape-delay on January 6th from 09:00-10:30. CCTV will also broadcast the singles final live at 14:00 on Saturday, January 4th, and air the doubles final via tape-delay on Tuesday, January 7th from 08:35-10:00. Additional airtime could also be provided by GDTV, which has provisionally scheduled Shenzhen Open coverage from 14:00-18:00 on Thursday, January 2nd, 12:30-17:30 on Friday, January 3rd and 14:00-17:30 on Saturday, January 4th.


The Shenzhen Open is organized by the Chinese Tennis Association, Shenzhen Municipal Bureau of Culture, Sport and Tourism, and CCTV-IMG Sports Management Company and co-organized by Bureau of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Longgang District, Shenzhen, Hong Gemdale Tennis Club and Kaisa Culture And Sports (Shenzhen) Co., Ltd.  The event is proud to have prestigious commercial sponsors that include the premier sponsors Gemdale Group and Kaisa Group together with Yili, Guinot / Mary Cohr, 500.com and Crowne Plaza Shenzhen Longgang City Center.


The tournament website www.shenzhenopentennis.com is also available for additional information.


FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Robecta Yeung at 852-2894 0204 / 86 137 6037 3443 or email : Robecta.yeung@imgworld.com


About the 2014 Shenzhen Open
Please visit: www.ShenzhenOpenTennis.com 


About Chinese Tennis Association
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About Shenzhen
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About Longgang
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About Gemdale Group
Please visit: www.gemdale.com


About Kaisa Group
Please visit: www.kaisagroup.com


About CCTV-IMG Sports Management Company
Please visit: www.cctv-img.com


About IMG
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About the WTA

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