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Tennis: Zhang now China’s No. 3 after winning second WTA title in Nanjing

China’s Zhang Shuai (left) won the Nanjing Open after Ayumi Morita (right) retired in the final, with the 24-year-old Chinese moving to a career-high ranking of 51st, having won her first WTA title in September. Photo: Nanjing Ladies Open.

China’s Zhang Shuai (left) won the Nanjing Open after Ayumi Morita (right) retired in the final, with the 24-year-old Chinese moving to a career-high ranking of 51st, having won her first WTA title in September. Photo: Nanjing Ladies Open.

November 4, 2013: It may not have come the way she wanted, but Zhang Shuai conquered the Nanjing Ladies Open on Sunday afternoon, the 24-year-old Chinese winning the title after an injured Ayumi Morita retired in the final.

 

Zhang is now the third-highest ranked Chinese after Li Na (3) and Peng Shuai (45) after her victory propelled her to 51st in the world ranking, one above experienced compatriot Zheng Jie, a semi-finalist at Wimbledon (2008) and the Australian Open (2010).

 

Morita, 23, had been the talk of the tournament going into the final. The Japanese scored thrilling comebacks in back-to-back matches earlier in the week, saving seven match points in her second-round match against Petra Martic and another match point against Anna Schmiedlova in the quarter-finals.

 

After a straight-sets semi-final win over Jarmila Gajdosova, she was a win away from completing a miracle title run. In the end it just wasn’t to be for the fourth seed, as after dropping the first set 6-4 to the third-seeded Zhang, she was forced to retire because of a left hamstring injury.

 

“I was quite surprised to see Ayumi retiring, because it was very tight for that set,” said Zhang. “I feel sorry for her, but I’m glad I won Nanjing. I’ve been working hard and I’m happy I made it.”

 

Morita explained: “When I was leading 4-3, I suddenly couldn’t push my left leg and I’m sorry I had to retire. I tried, but I could not continue. It has been a tough week for me. I had a couple of good, long matches and I’m satisfied with my result in Nanjing.”

 

Zhang has had a breakthrough couple of months, winning 19 of 23 matches, a stretch that includes her first WTA title at the Guangzhou Open in late September and now her first WTA 125K Series title in Nanjing.

 

Zhang came back a little later for the doubles final, although that one didn’t go her way. Top seeds Zhang and Yaroslava Shvedova fell 6-1 6-4 to the unseeded pairing of Misaki Doi of Japan and Xu Yi-fan of China. It was a winning debut for Doi and Xu, who were competing as a team for the first time on the WTA.

 

Zhang will now be the third seed again this week in Taipei, which is the fifth and last WTA 125K Series event of the year, with Lara Arruabarrena earlier winning in Cali, Colombia, Shahar Peer triumphant in Suzhou, China and Bojana Jovanovski victorious in Ningbo, China – where Zhang was runner-up.

 

The first two 125K Series events took place last autumn, with Kristina Mladenovic winning in Taipei and Elina Svitolina winning in Pune, India.

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