SPORTS Wang Qiang progresses at Australian open, Peng Shuai felled by cramp


Wang Qiang progresses at Australian open, Peng Shuai felled by cramp


09:41, January 22, 2020

Wang Qiang of China hits a return during the women's singles first round match against Pauline Parmentier of France at the 2020 Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, on Jan. 21, 2020. (Photos: Xinhua)

China's Wang Qiang progressed to the second round of the Australian Open on Tuesday after beating French wildcard Pauline Parmentier, 7-6 (2), 6-3.

Meanwhile Chinese players Wang Yafan and Peng Shuai bowed out of the competition despite fighting hard across three set matches to remain, with Peng suffering a debilitating leg cramp.

China's highest ranked player at the tournament, Wang Qiang, struggled to gain an advantage in the first set of her match against Parmentier, forcing a tiebreak and sending fans to the edge of their seats.

Both players showed immense power in the rally for the first point of the tiebreak, exchanging meaningful shots until the Frenchwoman finally fired one into the net -- to which Wang Qiang let out a cry of relief.

She told Xinhua after the match that the point was an important one and gave her the confidence to take control of the tiebreak and ultimately the match.

The Chinese player quickly steamed to a 4-0 advantage in the second set, and despite losing the first match point, her commanding lead proved unassailable.

"It's always difficult to play the first round of a tournament, so I had a difficult time in the first set and the end of the second set, but I think I handled it very well," Wang Qiang said.

Coming off the back of reaching the quarterfinals at last year's U.S. Open and beating world No. 1 Ash Barty, Wang Qiang said she was feeling more confident going into this tournament, but would play each match as it comes.

"It's given me some confidence but you know every tournament is different so I just try to build my confidence and try my best," she said.

Earlier in the day, Wang Yafan lost to American, Alison Riske, 7-6 (5), 2-6, 6-3 - having resumed their match which was halted after one set on Monday due to rain.

With the sun out, the Chinese player struck early, breaking Riske's serve in the first game and shooting to a 5-1 lead before going on to claim the second set.

However despite her frustration, Riske held on and quickly established control over the crucial third set.

Wang Yafan's serve in the sixth game went to deuce three times before one of her shots went wide, giving Riske the momentum she needed to clinch the crucial final games.

In another three set contest, Peng Shuai lost to Japan's Nao Hibino, 4-6, 7-6 (6), 6-3, with an apparent cramp costing the Chinese player the final set and ultimately the match.

Peng told Xinhua that the extreme physical demand of the two and a half hour match took a critical toll on her, and caused problems with her leg which struck in the final set.

Peng Shuai of China reacts during the women's singles first round match against Hibino Nao of Japan at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia on Jan. 21, 2020. 

"It was really a long match, I couldn't physically keep up with the opponent," Peng said.

"In the later stage of the match I could also feel the hot weather."

Despite leading the second set tiebreak, 4-1, Peng said that she felt physically unable to press the advantage and attack, eventually conceding the match as she was gripped by the pain in her leg.

"Last year I had a second surgery on my knee and never thought I would return to play singles again," Peng explained.

"But finally at the end of last year I moved back to the WTA top 100 ranking and now to the Australian Open."

Peng said she would work hard on playing doubles with partner, Zhang Shuai, ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.

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