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Tennis: Li downs Zheng in California clash of Chinese legends

Li Na on her way to beating fellow Chinese pioneer Zheng Jie 6-1, 7-5 in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California. Photo: AFP.

Li Na on her way to beating fellow Chinese trailblazer Zheng Jie 6-1, 7-5 in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California. Photo: AFP.

March 9, 2014: Li Na made a winning return to the US$6 million BNP Paribas Open on Saturday, beating fellow Chinese trailblazer and long-time rival Zheng Jie 6-1, 7-5 on centre court in California.


Having missed last year’s tournament with an ankle injury, Li arrived in Indian Wells as World No. 2, and the top seed started her campaign with her third straight victory against Zheng, who had beaten her compatriot in their first four WTA encounters.


Li, 32, looked headed for a much simpler straight-sets victory midway through the match after she went up a set and a break at 6-1, 2-1. However, the 30-year-old Zheng – who has been as high as World No. 15 – won three games in a row to lead 4-2 and, after Li caught up, held serve to get within a game of the set at 5-4.


Li shut that window quickly, holding at love to even it up at 5-5, then broke and held again to finish off the 65-minute second set.


“I’m happy with the result today, but I still feel I have so many things I can improve,” Li said. “This was my first match since Doha three weeks ago and I probably won’t be 100 per cent for my first match back, but I was happy I could at least learn some things from today’s match.”


Li and Zheng have both been pioneers for Chinese tennis, with the latter becoming the country’s first player to reach a Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon in 2008.


Li reached her first at the 2010 Australian Open, when Zheng was in the other semi, but the Wuhan native then moved to a new level with wins at the 2011 French Open and in Melbourne this January.


“There’s always something special between us because we’re from the same country, we played on the national team a couple of years, we’ve trained and eaten together. We know each other very well,” Li said.


“But Zheng Jie and Peng Shuai are always the Chinese girls I’m playing. I wish we could have more. We had a lot of Chinese players in Melbourne this year, which was good for us.”


Awaiting Li in the third round is Karolina Pliskova, who went on a mid-match tear to beat fellow Czech Klara Zakopalova 7-5, 6-2. Zakopalova, the 28th seed, was up 5-3 in the first set when Pliskova reeled off eight games in a row, saving a set point along the way and building a 7-5 4-0 lead.


Li will be playing for the first time against Pliskova, who hasn’t won any of her previous matches against is top 10 players.


Some more early winners were eighth seed Petra Kvitova, 11th seed Ana Ivanovic, 12th seed Dominika Cibulkova, 21st seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and 27th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova.


Ivanovic, a former World No. 1, had the most dramatic win of the bunch, not only rallying from a set down but also a break down in the second set and three times a break down in the third to beat Elina Svitolina 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(1).


BNP Paribas Open, 
Indian Wells, California, USA


Results: Saturday, March 8


Singles – Second Round

(1) Li Na (CHN) d. Zheng Jie (CHN) 61 75

(4) Maria Sharapova (RUS) d. Julia Goerges (GER) 61 64

María-Teresa Torró-Flor (ESP) d. (5) Angelique Kerber (GER) 26 76(5) 64

(8) Petra Kvitova (CZE) d. (WC) CoCo Vandeweghe (USA) 61 63

(11) Ana Ivanovic (SRB) d. Elina Svitolina (UKR) 46 75 76(1)

(12) Dominika Cibulkova (SVK) d. (WC) Donna Vekic (CRO) 63 62

Aleksandra Wozniak (CAN) d. (15) Sabine Lisicki (GER) 75 16 76(5)

(16) Samantha Stosur (AUS) d. Francesca Schiavone (ITA) 62 63

(17) Sloane Stephens (USA) d. Ajla Tomljanovic (CRO) 64 60

(20) Flavia Pennetta (ITA) d. (WC) Taylor Townsend (USA) 63 67(4) 63

(21) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) d. Caroline Garcia (FRA) 64 75

(23) Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) d. Monica Niculescu (ROU) 57 76(3) 63 (saved 1mp)

(Q) Camila Giorgi (ITA) d. (25) Sorana Cirstea (ROU) 76(3) 63

(27) Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) d. (Q) Barbora Zahlavova Strycova (CZE) 63 63

Karolina Pliskova (CZE) d. (28) Klara Zakopalova (CZE) 75 62

Alisa Kleybanova (RUS) d. (32) Garbiñe Muguruza (ESP) 63 62


Doubles – Second Round

(5) Black/Mirza (ZIM/IND) d. Kops-Jones/Spears (USA/USA) 63 64

(7) Barty/Dellacqua (AUS/AUS) d. Hantuchova/Parra Santonja (SVK/ESP) 61 63


Order Of Play: Sunday, March 9


Stadium 1 (from 11.00hrs)

1. ATP: Bautista Agut vs. Berdych

2. Yaroslava Shvedova vs. Caroline Wozniacki

3. ATP: del Potro vs. López

4. ATP: Benneteau vs. Tsonga

5. ATP: Hanescu vs. Djokovic (NB 19.00hrs)

6. Jelena Jankovic vs. Magdalena Rybarikova (NB 20.30hrs)


Stadium 2 (from 11.00hrs)

1. Simona Halep vs. Lucie Safarova

2. ATP: Davydenko vs. Isner

3. ATP: Gasquet vs. Gabashvili

4. Annika Beck vs. Agnieszka Radwanska

5. ATP: Dimitrov vs. Haase (NB 17.00hrs)

6. ATP: Isner/Querrey vs. Chardy/Simon


Stadium 3 (from 11.00hrs)

1. ATP: Lorenzi vs. Cilic

2. ATP: Kohlschreiber vs. Lu

3. Eugenie Bouchard vs. Sara Errani

4. ATP: Sousa vs. Gulbis

5. ATP: Zeballos vs. Verdasco


Stadium 4 (from 11.00hrs)

1. Carla Suárez Navarro vs. Alizé Cornet

2. Roberta Vinci vs. Casey Dellacqua (NB 12.30hrs)

3. Varvara Lepchenko vs. Lauren Davis

4. ATP: Mayer vs. Nieminen

5. ATP: López/Robredo vs. Kubot/Lindstedt


Stadium 5 (from 11.00hrs)

1. ATP: Rojer/Tecau vs. Fleming/Hutchins

2. ATP: Marray/Murray vs. Peya/Soares

3. ATP: Simon vs. Thiem

4. Kuznetsova/Stosur vs. Medina Garrigues/Shvedova (after suitable rest)

5. ATP: Janowicz/Kohlschreiber vs. Paes/Stepanek


Stadium 6 (from 12.00hrs)

1. ATP: Kukushkin vs. Pospisil

2. Hsieh/Peng vs. Kleybanova/Pavlyuchenkova

3. Mladenovic/Pennetta vs. Date-Krumm/Zahlavova Strycova


Stadium 9 (from 12.00hrs)

1. ATP: Dodig vs. González

2. ATP: Robredo vs. Matosevic

3. Goerges/Groenefeld vs. Makarova/Vesnina


Source: WTA

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