PATTAYA CITY, Thailand - Everyone's talking about how Li Na is closing in on the World No.2 ranking in singles, which would raise the bar on her own Asian record, but there's another Chinese seemingly on the verge of history - Peng Shuai is closing in fast on the World No.1 ranking in doubles.
But first, the on-court business. Peng and countrywoman Zhang Shuai won the PTT Pattaya Open doubles title over the weekend, not dropping a set in their first three matches but surviving a nail-biter in the final - the No.4-seeded Chinese duo had to battle back from 63 52 down to beat No.3-seeded Russian-Australian duo Alla Kudryavtseva and Anastasia Rodionova for a 36 76(5) 106 victory.
"It was a very tough match but we made it," Zhang said. "I'm very happy to win the title on this first-time partnership with Peng Shuai. We spent a very nice week together and celebrated Chinese New Year together here. For everyone that also celebrates this festival, we wish you a Happy New Year!"
It was Peng and Zhang's first WTA doubles title as a partnership. Individually, Peng now has 13 WTA doubles titles to her name while Zhang has four (as well as one WTA 125K Series doubles title).
Perhaps more important is how the win affected this week's doubles rankings. Peng didn't move up the list - she's still No.3 - but she's now just five points behind co-No.1s Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, which seems like an even smaller gap given their totals are 7820 compared to Peng's 7815.
There could be a major shift after next week's Qatar Total Open in Doha. Errani and Vinci are the defending champions, earning 900 points for winning the title last year. But the five players right beneath them in the rankings have a lot to gain - and they're all within 400 points of Errani and Vinci (No.3 Peng didn't play Doha last year, No.4 Hsieh Su-Wei fell first round, No.5 Elena Vesnina didn't play, No.6 Katarina Srebotnik fell in the final and No.7 Ekaterina Makarova didn't play).
If Peng were the player to emerge, though, she would become the first Chinese player to rank No.1 in either singles or doubles on the WTA. She would also become the second Asian woman to rank No.1 in either discipline - Japan's Ai Sugiyama was No.1 in doubles for 45 weeks throughout her career.