Simona Halep nearly saw her Shenzhen Open campaign cut short at the first hurdle but battled past a WTA Rising Star. Meanwhile, Vera Zvonareva turned back the clock.
WTA Staff

SHENZHEN, China - Simona Halep, the No.1 seed at the Shenzhen Open, nearly saw her campaign cut short at the first hurdle but managed to get past WTA Rising Star Annika Beck in three tough sets.

Beck, who beat Halep on the grass courts of 's-Hertogenbosch last June - albeit by retirement - seemed keen on repeating the feat, sneaking out a break in the seventh game en route to taking the first set, 6-4, and going up a break twice in the second set, first at 2-1 and then again at 4-3.

After surrendering that second set, the talented German even broke for a 3-2 lead in the third and deciding set - but Halep was just too solid at all the right moments, winning four games in a row from there to close the match out after a grueling hour and 53 minutes on the court, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.

"It was my first match of the year, which is always difficult," Halep commented. "After the first set I knew I had to be more aggressive, hit the balls and open the court more, and I think I did it well.

"I was trying to fight for every point and win this match. I'm happy to reach the second round."

The No.2 seed, Petra Kvitova, had a far quicker day at the office, cruising past Chinese wildcard Duan Ying-Ying in straight sets, 6-3, 6-1. The early goings of the match were close, but from 4-3 Kvitova reeled off eight of the next nine games to make it past the big-hitting Chinese in exactly one hour.

But while the Top 2 seeds moved on, the No.3 seed wasn't so fortunate. Peng Shuai, not only the third seed but also China's top-ranked player, looked strong early on against Vera Zvonareva - she blasted her two-fisted strokes to perfection in building a 6-4, 2-1 lead. But Zvonareva knows a thing or two about winning big matches, and the former World No.2 went right to work, toughing out the second set, 6-4, and then storming out to a 5-1 lead in the third set. Zvonareva would prevail, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.

"We've played so many times and we always have tough matches against each other - I'm just really happy to get through this one," Zvonareva said. "After losing the first set, I was able to stay focused and come back in the second set, and then start really well in the third. I had a couple of opportunities to finish it on my serve but she was coming up with good shots, and I just couldn't convert.

"I'm happy I was able to break her in that last game to finally win the match."

It's been a rough go for Zvonareva, who reached two Grand Slam finals in 2010, at Wimbledon and the US Open, and went as high as No.2 in the world at one point. She missed the second half of 2012 with an illness and sat out the 2013 season after undergoing right shoulder surgery. She came back for five events in the first half of 2014 before missing the second half due to the same right shoulder.

Zvonareva comes into 2015 ranked No.250 - but she just took out the World No.22.

"It was a great experience to play against a player of that level again," Zvonareva said. "I had a lot of troubles over the past two years, two and a half really. I tried to come back last year, but it was too early and I had too much pain, so I had to take a break again. I've been so on and off lately.

"But I'm really happy with this win. I have no goals at the moment - I just want to be healthy and try my best in every match, try and get into the competition routines and spirit, because that's what you lose when you're away. I don't expect anything - I just want to give it my very best every time."

The other seeds in action also fell - Katerina Siniakova beat No.6 seed Irina-Camelia Begu, 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-1, and Polona Hercog outdid No.7 seed Monica Niculescu, 6-1, 7-5. Karin Knapp, Bojana Jovanovski, Tereza Smitkova and qualifiers Aleksandra Krunic and Cagla Buyukakcay also won.