OEIRAS, Portugal - The playing style of hitting with two hands off both sides has been very alive on the WTA since Monica Seles popularized it, with Marion Bartoli and Peng Shuai doing the most over the last several years - Bartoli went all the way to the Top 10 with it, Peng the Top 15. Coincidentally the pair squared off in the first round of the Portugal Open on Tuesday, with Peng getting the win.
The first two sets couldn't have been more lopsided - Peng took the first, 6-0, then Bartoli took the second, 6-1; the two were level throughout the third set but it was Peng who got the lone break in the seventh game and eventually closed it out, 60 16 64, sending the tournament's No.1 seed home.
"I was really happy to win this match," Peng Shuai said. "After Miami my shoulder wasn't feeling so good so I actually went back to China, got treatment in Beijing and trained in Tianjin before coming to Europe. But they don't have many clay courts in China, so I practiced on hardcourts. I had three or four days on clay courts in Stuttgart, so I've only really been playing on clay for a week and a half.
"So I'm really happy to beat such a good player today. In the end both of us were playing very well."
Peng came away with her first Top 20 win since beating Jelena Jankovic at Cincinnati last August.
"The first match on clay is always tough for me and obviously at the beginning I had a lot of trouble finding my game and my feet on the court," Bartoli said. "I wasn't feeling comfortable and she was playing extremely well, as well. I just tried my hardest on the court and was able to play some good shots in the second set. I felt like the third set was really close and we both started to play quite well, but that game at 3-3 when I had 40-15, she hit quite a lucky return and that really hurt me.
"It was a very difficult draw for me, but I think it's better for me to have those kinds of matches early in the clay court season and just try to keep improving for the big tournaments coming up."
A former French Open semifinalist, Bartoli will keep marching on through the clay court season, playing every week until her home Grand Slam tournament - Madrid, Rome and finally Strasbourg.
"Clay is a surface I need to spend time on, unlike hardcourts, which come a lot more easy," Bartoli said. "In 2011, I didn't start the clay court season well but was able to do well at Roland Garros. The form came after playing a lot of matches and practicing a lot, so I hope I will be able to do the same this year. But I'm just taking it one match at a time and I'm not putting any pressure on myself."
Peng beat Oprandi in their only previous meeting, though it came all the way back in 2007.