Peng's Asian Games Gold
Published November 24, 2010 12:00
GUANGZHOU, China - Though the WTA's season officially wrapped up on November 7, the world's best female players from Asia have spent the past week and a half playing for their countries at the 16th Asian Games.
Several members of the Top 100 competed at the Aoti Tennis Centre, including China's Li Na (ranked No.11 in the world), Japan's Kimiko Date-Krumm, Thailand's Tamarine Tanasugarn, Uzbekistan's Akgul Amanmuradova, China's Peng Shuai, Japan's Ayumi Morita, and China's Zhang Shuai.
Peng Triumphs For China
The singles draw lost some luster when Li, who earlier this year became the first Chinese ever to make it into the Top 10, chose to sit out the individual event to focus on the team competition, and defending champion Zheng Jie of China was forced to skip the Games due to injury. In their absence, Date-Krumm, coming off an appearance in the Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions, was given the top seed. For the 40-year-old, it was her first appearance in the Asian Games since her gold medal victory 16 years ago.
All the pressure for a local winner turned to 24-year-old Peng, seeded fourth. After easing her way into the final four, she took on Date-Krumm in a tough battle, taking the deciding set for the win. She ultimately handled the added weight of her country's hopes with poise and made it to the final where she defeated the big-serving Amanmuradova for the gold medal, 75 62.
India's Sania Mirza, a former Top 30 player but currently No.165 after some struggles with injury, overcame a throat and ear infection that forced her to miss the team event to make it to the semifinals. She put together a stretch of excellent tennis to defeat No.6 seed Zhang in the second round and No.2 seed Tanasugarn in the quarterfinals. She and Date-Krumm shared the bronze medal.
Chinese Taipei Dominates Doubles
As the doubles draw shook out, Chinese Taipei dominated and was guaranteed to go home a winner, as both of its top teams made it to the gold medal match. In the end, Chan Yung-Jan and Chuang Chia-Jung (who reached two Grand Slam finals in 2007) lived up to their top seed and took down their compatriots for the championship. Chang Kai-Chen and Hsieh Su-Wei settled for silver.
China's Yan Zi had been the defending champion in the event, but was without her 2006 partner Zheng. Instead she teamed up with Peng, and the No.2 seeds took home the bronze alongside South Korea's Kim So-Jung and Lee Jin-A.
China Takes Team Event
Li's decision to forego a shot at individual glory to concentrate on giving China the team title proved to be a worthy choice as the home country barreled to gold, defeating defending champions Chinese Taipei in the final. Both Li and Peng won their singles matches in the gold medal match to prevail, 2-1.
There were no upsets in the team competition, as all Top 4 seeds made it to the semifinals. Japan, the No.2 seeds and led by Date-Krumm, and No.4 seeds Thailand, starring Tanasugarn, shared the bronze.
In a year where two Chinese women, Li and Zheng, made it to the semifinals of the Australian Open, China showed off its deep talent pool in the women's game. Even without Zheng in the line-up at the Games, three of their four team members feature in the Top 100, and they showed that China could be a dominating force in women's tennis in the future.
Two Golds For Chan
Doubles champion Chan also took home the mixed doubles crown with partner Yang Tsung-Hua after handily defeating India's Mirza and Vishnu Vardhan, 10-2, in the match tie-break of the gold medal match. Thailand's Tanasugarn and Sanchai Ratiwatana and Japan's Yurika Sema and Hiroki Kondo won bronze.