MELBOURNE, December 3, 2018 (Press Release)
China’s Zhe Li and Shuai Peng, both 32 years of age and from the city of Tianjin, won the Australian Open Asia-Pacific Wildcard Play-off in Zhuhai yesterday to earn their spot in the respective men’s and women’s singles main draws.
Li achieved the biggest victory of his career in a hard-fought battle with Davis Cup teammate Ze Zhang.
In his third final in five years at the Asia-Pacific Wildcard Play-off, Li finally got across the finish line, coming back from a set down to outlast Zhang 1-6 7-6(2) 6-4.
Li turned the match around when he saved three crucial break points in the ninth game of the second set before levelling the match in the tiebreak and going on to win the third set.
“I’m really excited now. It shows I still can be competitive at this age, all the hard work has paid off,’ Li said.
Li becomes the third male player, after Di Wu and Ze Zhang, from mainland China to play in a Grand Slam men’s singles main draw.
Asked which player he would like to face in Melbourne next month, Li replied: “I actually thought about it this morning. I hope it can be Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic.”
Facing Kai Chen Chang of Chinese Taipei in the women’s singles finals yesterday, Peng dominated the first set with more consistency, quickly building a 4-1 lead, she finished off with a volley in the eighth game.
Chang, the 2015 winner and who clinched the women’s doubles wildcard on Saturday, was struggling physically in her eighth match in five days and was forced to retire due to injury in the second set.
Peng won the match 6-2 1-0.
“It’s never easy to see your opponent retire like this, but its sport,” Peng said.
“Of course I want to win, but watching her crying on the court wasn’t a good feeling.”
Australian Open Asia-Pacific Wildcard Play-off Tournament Director Isabelle Gemmel said it was an excellent week of high quality tennis in Zhuhai, an annual event that has become an integral part of the tennis calendar.
“Zhe Li and Shuai Peng had an excellent week on the court here in Zhuhai,” Gemmel said.
“We also had deserving winners across our other fields with Mao-Xin Gong and Zhang Ze and Kai Chen Chang and Ching-Wen Hsu winning the men’s and women’s doubles wildcards.
“Japan’s Hikaru Takeda won the boys’ wildcard and Korea’s Yeon Woo Ku won the girls’ wildcard.”
Australian Open 2019 Asia-Pacific Wildcard Play-off winners:
MEN’S SINGLES: Zhe Li (CHN)
WOMEN’S SINGLES: Shuai Peng (CHN)
MEN’S DOUBLES: Mao-Xin Gong and Zhang Ze (CHN)
WOMEN’S DOUBLES: Kai Chen Chang and Ching-Wen Hsu (TPE)
BOYS’ SINGLES: Hikaru Takeda (JPN)
GIRLS’ SINGLES: Yeon Woo Ku (KOR)
More Australian Open wildcards will be announced leading into the tournament.
The Australian Open 2019 Play-off will be held during the December Showdown at Melbourne Park, beginning on Monday 10 December 2018.