GUANGZHOU, China - Top seed Peng Shuai fought through a late-night thriller that started on Tuesday evening and ended at nearly two in the morning on Wednesday for a spot into the second round of the Guangzhou Open.
Peng, a finalist here in 2008, survived a tough challenge from Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, needing two hours and 20 minutes to see off her opponent 7-6(4), 1-6, 6-3.
“I haven't played such a late match in a while,” Peng said afterwards. “I’ve been having to drink coffee. But it's all a part of tennis.
“I felt a bit sleepy even before getting to court today!”
The Chinese player escaped victorious from a rollercoaster first set; the pair traded breaks three times, with Peng having to come from behind and break back twice. She finally pulled away in the tiebreak, earning back-to-back mini-breaks to close out the set.
But the Tunisian didn’t stay down for long, though. Jabeur had been putting Peng under pressure all match long, and she finally earned her breakthrough in the second set. She outlasted Peng in a marathon fourth game to break serve, and carried the momentum to reel off seven games in a row to close out the set and start the third with a 2-0 lead.
Peng fought to bring them to level terms, breaking back at 2-2, and dodged a barrage of break points to keep them level for the rest of the set. She finally broke through at 5-3, serving out the match for a spot into round 2.
“I led in the first set and managed to secure it winning the tiebreaker, but then I felt quite tired after the first set,” Peng explained. “Ons played quite smart tennis - she is capable of changing strategy - and I lost the second.
“We both had opportunities and mistakes in the third set, but I told myself to hang on because I knew she would be quite tired too. I m glad I finally turned it around and won.”
Joining Peng in the second round is No.2 seed and fellow Chinese player Zhang Shuai, who dropped just one game against Chinese wildcard You Xiaodi. She needed just 70 minutes to wrap up the 6-1, 6-0 demolition. No.6 seed Alizé Cornet is also through, coming back from a set down to defeat American Bernarda Pera 4-6, 6-2, 6-2.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the seeds, though, as two top players saw their stay in Guangzhou cut short in the first round by a pair of inspired Chinese players. No.5 seed Elise Mertens’ late comeback effort was halted by Wang Yafan, 6-2, 7-6(5). And Han Xinyun stunned the No.7 seed Sam Stosur in a rollercoaster three sets, 6-7(6), 6-3, 7-5.
Also in action, Chinese qualifier Zhang Kai-Lin came back from a set down to defeat Jana Fett, 2-6, 6-1, 6-3, Evgeniya Rodina squeezed past Arina Rodionova, 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-0 and Australian qualifier Lizette Cabrera defeated Chinese qualifier Gao Xinyu, 7-5, 6-3.