ZHUHAI, China -- Wild card Peng Shuai claimed her first ever match win in Zhuhai on Friday, as Russia's Elena Vesnina was forced to retire due to an injury with her lower back while trailing 6-2, 1-0.
The partisan crowd got to see their Chinese No.1 emerge from the Bougainvillea Group with a 1-1 record, but it was surely not the way Peng nor the crowd had hoped, as Vesnina was struggling too much with the injury which had hampered her in her previous round-robin tilt against CoCo Vandeweghe.
"Before the match, I did not know [Vesnina] was injured," Peng told the media after the match. "I just hope that she can have some good rest and to be good feeling with next year -- and me too, because of my knee."
Peng has now eked her way into the head-to-head lead against one of her most frequent rivals, grasping a 5-4 record in WTA main draw matches against Vesnina. "It's not only singles -- doubles we also play many, many times," said Peng. "I wish in the future we could play more, singles and doubles."
Peng, who won the 2017 JiangXi Open in Nanchang for her second career singles title, will finish another year ranked in the world's Top 30 players. "For next year my goal for singles would be Top 25 or even [Top] 20," Peng told the press. "And for doubles, I hope that my ranking can go even higher."
Her opponent's medical issues notwithstanding, Peng had a stellar day on the court, hitting 22 winners to only 4 unforced errors before the match concluded. Peng also served up 4 aces, and won 18 of 23 points on her first serve.
To her credit, Vesnina was contesting a clean match as well, despite her woes. The No.6 seed hit 13 winners to only eight unforced errors before she retired.
However, Vesnina struggled with her serve from the start, and it was evident that her back problems were causing her strife. The Russian blew a lead while serving down 1-2, and hit multiple double faults in the game to give Peng a crucial 3-1 lead.
Peng, meanwhile, was serving exceptionally well. The national heroine came up with two huge clutch service winners when Vesnina had her only chance to assert herself in the match, at double break point at 4-2. Another ace in the game brought Peng to game point, which she converted with a drop shot winner.
Staring down a 5-2 deficit while in pain, Vesnina succumbed to another service break. A forehand unforced error by the Russian gave Peng set point, and the Chinese player took the opening frame when her perfectly placed return square on the baseline forced Vesnina into a backhand error.
Vesnina gave the second set a chance after receiving lower back treatment during the break between sets. But Peng was unbothered by the delay, picking up right where she left off. She hit an excellent down-the-line winner to open the set, and served beautifully, sealing the opening game of the set with an ace.
That would be the last game of the encounter, as Vesnina pulled the plug. The Russian can still be thrilled with her season, winning the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells for the biggest title of her career, and is projected to finish another year in the Top 20.