Niculescu Backs It Up, Second Round Wraps
Published October 05, 2011 12:00
BEIJING, China - The second round of the China Open came to a close on Wednesday afternoon, with two established stars and a Romanian on the rise snapping up berths in the last 16 at the Premier-level tournament.
That Romanian was the first to win: Monica Niculescu, who scored her first Top 10 win in the first round over Li Na, followed that up in an all-qualifier battle with Chanelle Scheepers, beating the South African comprehensively, 62 61. Scheepers never really got comfortable with the two-handed, crafty game of Niculescu, getting broken in seven of her eight service games during the match.
It was a stark contrast to their only previous meeting in the first round of Madrid, where they were also both qualifiers. Scheepers won that one, 46 63 76(3).
"Beating Li Na was my best result ever. My confidence is really high right now," Niculescu said. "To play that well on the center court in front of so many fans was unbelievable. I had played against top players before, like Schiavone, but I never won - so to beat a Grand Slam champion was a dream come true.
"Winning 62 61 against Scheepers, who beat me the last time we played, shows how much confidence I have right now. I'm very happy about it."
Niculescu isn't a typical player with two hands off both sides - she mixes in some one-handed drop shots and slice, not just going for power off both sides. "Before when I was mixing it up it was a weapon, but players started to know what to expect. Now I'm playing smarter - two hands, one hand, slice, drop shot... I've also been keeping my errors down. I hope to keep improving."
Next for the 24-year-old Niculescu is another qualifier, Virginie Razzano, who won her second round match on Tuesday. Razzano, 28, is a former Top 20 player currently at No.110, having fallen down the rankings after an injury-marred 2010. Razzano beat Niculescu in the pair's only previous meeting.
No.2 seed Victoria Azarenka was the next player into the last 16, surviving a set point in the first set tie-break then comfortably moving past Polona Hercog, 76(8) 63. Azarenka battled back from 3-5 in the first set and was a point away from losing the set at 7-8 in the tie-break, but kept cool and eventually got the win, despite some big serving from Hercog - the Slovenian fired 11 aces.
Fresh off her second Premier title of the year in Tokyo, No.11 seed Agnieszka Radwanska rounded out the second round winners, sending the last Chinese player in the draw home with a 61 64 win over Zheng Jie. Radwanska rolled through the first set in 30 minutes and broke early in the second; serving at 3-2 she saved four break points and held for 4-2, then the two held until the end.
"The most important part was when I was serving 3-2 in the second set and was 0-40 down - I won that game, and that was the key of the match," Radwanska said. "I'm very happy I could close the match in two sets. I've only been here two days, which is not very long, especially playing on a new court. So I'm happy."
Radwanska also had a message for the Chinese fans. "I know everybody was against me, I could hear it - but of course they wanted to support the Chinese player. I was prepared for that. And even when the fans are against me, they're still great fans. I hope I'll see that many of them at my next match!"
Next up for Azarenka will be No.13-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Azarenka leads the series, 3-0). Awaiting Radwanska in the next round will be Sofia Arvidsson, conqueror of Petra Kvitova (a first-time meeting).