Bencic, Sabalenka Fall At Shenzhen Open

SHENZHEN, January 7, 2020 (Press Release)

In what was the first big upset of the tournament, in-form 21-year-old Anna Blinkova secured the biggest win of her young career as she defeated Belinda Bencic 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 in one hour and 53 minutes to knock out the number one seed in the first round of the Shenzhen Open.

At 5-1 up after six games, Swiss ace Bencic looked on course for a routine victory, but 2015 Junior Wimbledon runner-up Blinkova began to find her serving form and started putting her world No. 8 opponent under more pressure.

The turning point of the match came in the sixth game of the second set that lasted a total of 16 points – Blinkova saved game point three times before breaking her frustrated opponent on the second time of asking to take a 4-2 lead.

In the third set, the young Russian did not face a single break point and converted both the chances she created to complete her first career victory over a Top Ten player.

“I’m feeling really good, I’m so happy I don’t know what to say. I did my job. I didn’t feel great in the beginning of the match. But it’s very important that I managed to increase the level of my game slowly step by step. I said to myself I need to put more balls in the court, because I was making too many mistakes. So I tried to close the wrist a bit more and stay aggressive on the shot and try to play the big moments with aggression,” said the Russian, who is at a career high ranking of No. 58.

The day’s second match on Centre Court continued in a similar vein as Kristyna Pliskova ousted Belarusian defending champion Aryna Sabalenka with a 6-4, 6-4 second round victory in one hour and 29 minutes.

The world No. 66 Czech put in a composed display against her second seeded world No. 11 opponent, as she hit 15 aces and converted 60% of the five break chances she had. Most significantly, the 27-year-old saved all 11 break points she faced during the match – nine of which came in her final two games on serve as Sabalenka fought to claw her way back into the match.

“I worked hard during the pre-season and I played great so I’m happy with the win today. I didn’t feel on court that it was 11 break points but I think every time I hit good serves and of course, she missed a couple, but I’m happy she didn’t break me today. The first match I was struggling a little bit with my serve and everything but today was much better. Hopefully I can improve in the next match again,” said the Czech, who is gunning for her first final since Prague ’17.

Belgium world No. 17 Elise Mertens overcome a spirited challenge from Chinese wild card Wang Xiyu to win 6-4, 6-3 in one hour and 25 minutes and ensure one of the top three seeds made the last eight.

“It was a tough match. She’s young and playing well and she’s up and coming so she had nothing to lose. But I think I managed it well. She played pretty fast so I tried to absorb the pace and take my chances on the court. My serve was working well and that really made the difference,” said the 24-year-old.

Kazakh-Russian rising star Elena Rybakina’s fine form from last season looks to be continuing here at the Shenzhen Open as the 20-year-old eased past China’s Wang Yafan 6-3, 6-4 in one hour and 27 minutes. The 6-foot tall world No. 36 hit seven aces and saved all five break points she faced while converting two of the eight she created.

“I’m happy to be in the next round. It was not easy but the conditions were good on Centre Court with no wind and it wasn’t so hot, so I’m happy with the win.  I’m really happy to play big events because last year I started with the ITF. Now I’m ready to play with the top players and I’m really enjoying it,” said Rybakina.

Local number eight seed Zhang Shuai fell at her second main draw hurdle as Ukraine’s Kateryna Bondarenko survived four set points in the opener to complete a 7-6(8), 6-3 straight sets victory in one hour and 32 minutes on Court 1.

In the only other first round match played today, Zarina Diyas defeated Chinese wild card Duan Yingying 6-3, 6-4 in 68 minutes to move into the second round of the Shenzhen Open for the fourth time in her last five outings here.

In doubles matches played today, the second seeded pair featuring world No. 7 Katerina Siniakova and Czech compatriot Barbora Krejcikova steamrolled past Swedish-American tandem Cornelia Lister and Sabrina Santamaria 6-0, 6-2 in 46 minutes to make the last four.

Meanwhile, two-time Shenzhen Open doubles champion Peng Shuai and world No.10 partner Zhang Shuai, who are seeded fourth in the draw, succumbed to a surprise defeat against wild card pair Jiang Xinyu and Tang Qianhui.

The young pair, who won their first title at Nanchang in 2017 and successfully defended it the next year, moved into the quarterfinals with a 6-2, 6-4 victory in 62 minutes.

Slovenia’s Dalila Jakupovic and Romania’s Raluca Olaru rallied from a set down against the Romanian-Czech pair of Irina-Camelia Begu and Pliskova to notch a closely fought 3-6, 7-6(3), 11-9 victory in the first round.

Earlier in the day, Canada’s Sharon Fichman and Miyu Kato also booked their spot in the quarterfinal with a 6-1, 2-6, 10-6 super tie-breaker win over Chinese pair Han Xinyun and Zhu Lin.

The remaining four second round singles matches are slated to be played tomorrow along with three doubles quarterfinal matches.

Kicking things off at 11am on Centre Court, sixth seed Garbiñe Muguruza takes on American Shelby Rogers for second time on tour. The former world No.1 Spaniard last played and defeated Rogers in the 2016 French Open quarterfinals en route to lifting her first Grand Slam.

Next up, fifth seed Ekaterina Alexandrova meets Chinese icon Peng for the first time on tour before fourth seed Wang Qiang attempts to make her third quarterfinal appearance in five years at the Shenzhen Open as she faces off against Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich – also a first encounter.

The other second round match between Blinkova and Diyas will be played on Court 1 at 11am. The Kazakh leads 2-1 in head-to-head meetings but the Russian took the win in their most recent meeting at Beijing last September.

Tomorrow night’s final match on Centre Court will feature doubles top seeds Sabalenka and Mertens facing off against Japan’s Misaki Doi and Romania’s Monica Niculescu.

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