Shenzhen Open: Sabalenka Notches First-Round Win

SHENZHEN, January 6, 2020 (Press Release)

Seeded players in the singles draw continue to notch strong wins here in the Shenzhen Open as second seed Aryna Sabalanka, fourth seed Wang Qiang, sixth seed Garbiñe Muguruza and seventh seed Elena Rybakina all moved into the second round of the tournament.

In today’s opening match on Centre Court, world No.11 Sabalenka got her title defense off to a strong start with a 6-3, 6-0 victory over qualifier Margarita Gasparyan in 71 minutes.

Playing her first competitive match of the season, the 6-foot tall Belarusian was immediately put under pressure by her Russian opponent, who already had two matches under her belt, and had to save two break points in an intense first game in which 16 points were contested.

After the duo exchanged breaks in the fourth and fifth games of the opener, Sabalenka slipped into a higher gear and closed out the first set with an additional break in the eighth game. The 21-year-old hit two aces and converted three of five break points en route to serving her opponent a bagel in the second set.

“I’m very happy to start my season with a win. It was a little bit of a tough match because she is a great player. I was just trying to stay positive and try my best on every point. The first match is always a bit tricky and you just need to find your rhythm back. I think I did it very well,” said Sabalenka.

Former world No. 1 Muguruza overcame a sluggish start against highly regarded Chinese youngster Wang Xinyu to overturn a one set deficit and claim a 3-6, 6-3, 6-0 first round victory in one hour and 34 minutes on Centre Court.

The hard-hitting wild card Wang seemed unfazed by her opponent’s iconic stature in the first set, creating seven break opportunities and converting one, while not facing a single challenge on her serve.

As the match wore on, the world No. 36 Spaniard hit her stride, hitting three aces each in both the following sets and did not face a single further break point as she romped to victory.

“I think it was my first match in a long time and you cannot expect to play your best tennis. My opponent played very well in the beginning and it took me some time and I had to be patient to wait for my opportunities. I’m happy I managed to win at the end of the match,” said the 26-year-old.

Singles fourth seed Wang  snapped a three match Shenzhen Open losing streak with a 6-0, 6-3 victory over Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur to move into the second round for the first time in three years.

The Chinese number one, who is currently ranked No.30 on the WTA Tour, started imperiously to take seven games on the trot before Jabeur could get on the board and did not face a single break point in the 58 minute encounter.

“Overall I think I performed well today. I felt a little bit nervous and worried before the match, because I was afraid that couldn’t perform what I’ve learned in my daily training. Luckily, everything was under control today. My focus in training is more on physical strength for me now. I think the most important thing for me is to be able to last a season without injury,” said Wang.

Meanwhile, rising star Elena Rybakina weathered a second set fight back from Zheng Saisai to prevail 6-2, 1-6, 6-2 in one hour and 56 minutes and ensure a winning debut in the Shenzhen Open.

In a back and forth encounter between two players separated by just five places in the rankings (Rybakina higher at No.37), the 20-year-old Kazakh-Russian hit five aces and converted five break points in 12 opportunities.

In an all-Chinese first round clash, 2014 singles runner-up Peng Shuai relied on her experience to defeat her younger but currently higher ranked compatriot Zhu Lin 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in just under two hours.

In other first round matches played today, the Czech Republic’s Kristyna Pliskova moved past Romanian qualifier Irina-Camelia Begu 6-3, 6-3 in 76 minutes while Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich defeated German qualifier Anna-Lena Friedsam 6-2, 6-3 also in 76 minutes.

American Shelby Rogers made it a clean sweep of wins against qualifiers in action today as she overcame compatriot Nicole Gibbs 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 in a marathon two hour and 33 minute long match on Court 2.

In doubles matches played today, the top seeded pair of Sabalenka and Elise Mertens took 77 minutes to overcome the challenge of Ukraine-Belarus combo Kateryna Bondarenko and Lidziya Marozava.

The second seeded Czech duo of Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova also moved into the quarterfinals with a 6-1, 6-2 victory in 53 minutes over Friedsam and Gasparyan.

Meanwhile, Swedish-American combo Cornelia Lister and Sabrina Santamaria marched into next round with a convincing 7-6(5), 6-2 in one hour and 25 minutes over Chinese wild cards Ma Shuyue and Yuan Yue.

Also recording a first round win today was the Japanese-Romanian tandem of Misaki Doi and Monica Niculescu; they defeated the Russian-Georgian pair of Ekaterina Alexandrova and Oksana Kalashnikova 6-2, 6-2 in exactly one hour.

Tournament top seed Belinda Bencic is finally set to debut here at the Shenzhen Open as the remaining two singles first round matches along with four second round singles, three first round doubles and one doubles quarterfinal set to be contested tomorrow.

The world No. 8 will meet Russian Anna Blinkova for the first time on tour in tomorrow’s opening Centre Court match scheduled for 11am.

Centre Court will then host a trio of second round matches featuring three of the tournament’s top seven seeds. First up, tournament second seed Sabalenka faces off against Pliskova in another first-time meeting followed by third seed Mertens going up against wild card Wang Xiyu.

The final Centre Court match of the day sees Rybakina going up against China’s Wang Yafan.

Meanwhile, in the only other first round match left to be contested, Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas meets China’s third and final wild card left in the draw – Duan Yingying. The duo have clashed three times so far on tour, with Duan leading the series 2-1 and taking victory in their latest meeting at Kuala Lumpur in 2017.

The fourth seeded doubles pair consisting of former world No.1 Peng Shuai and 2019 Australian Open doubles champ Zhang Shuai are set to commence their campaign tomorrow with a first round match against wild card pair Jiang Xinyu and Tang Qianhui.

In the solitary doubles quarterfinal match to be played tomorrow, second seeds Krejcikova and Siniakova will face off against Lister and Santamaria on Court 2.

There will be free admission to Court 1 and Court 2 throughout the week. Tickets are available through www.damai.cn