For Daily Express – Wuhan Open 2017 – Friday, September 22, 2017 – James Pham
Chinese Players Go 1-4 in Round 1 of Qualifying
Qualifying rounds for the Wuhan Open 2017 began on Friday as all 32 players were scheduled to take to the courts in an effort to secure a coveted spot into the tournament’s main draw.
Chinese fans were out in force on a cool, overcast day to support 7 home players. Before rain postponed the 6 remaining matches late in the afternoon (including two involving Chinese players), one home favorite gave fans something to cheer for as Jing-Jing Lu upset #16 Danka Kovinic of Montenegro 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 for a place in the second round. The 28-year-old Lu used a steady game to beat Kovinic, ranked 100 spots higher, putting 75% of first serves in and saving 9 of 11 break points. Lu’s best results this year include the quarterfinals of the WTA tournament in Nanchang and the semis of ITF tournaments in Shenzhen, Nanning and Wuhan.
Her four other compatriots did not fare as well, with 21-year-old Shanshan Guo going out to #14 Ons Jabeur and world #187 Xinyu Gao failing to find the form that has led her to three ITF titles this year, falling 3-6, 1-6 to #2 Natalia Vikhlyantseva of Russia.
World #276 Jia-Jing Lu had the unenviable task of going against top seed Monica Niculescu. The crafty Romanian, the three-time WTA title holder and a finalist in Hobart earlier this year, sliced and diced her way to an easy 6-2, 6-1 win in just over an hour.
In one of the most entertaining matches of the day, world #132 Xinyun Han lost a high-quality contest to British #2, Heather Watson. Han, a semi-finalist at the WTA tournament in Kuala Lumpur earlier this year, employed her big lefty forehand to great effect, coming from behind to take the first set in a tie-break. The match was punctuated with numerous grueling baseline rallies which ended with scintillating winners from both players. Despite serving up 14 double faults, Han remained in it to the very end, finally giving up a 7-6 (2), 2-6, 5-7 decision that lasted 3 hours and 17 minutes.
In other results:
· 2016 Olympic Gold Medalist Monica Puig moved into the next round when Czech Lucie Hradecka retired at 4-4 in the first set
· #11 Maria Sakkari of Greece defeated Aleksandrina Naydenova, 6-3, 6-0
· #6 Magda Linette advanced over Australia’s Arina Rodionova, 6-3, 6-3
· Bernarda Pera upset #4 Lara Arruabarrena, 7-6 (3), 6-2
· #7 Carina Witthoeft d. Shuko Aoyama, 6-0, 7-5