Weekend round-up: Li Na, Guan, Rory all fall, Tiger’s in town, and Evergrande sitting pretty

ImageDespite taking the first set 6-2, Li Na lost the final of the WTA Championships in Istanbul (the last before the end-of-season showpiece moves to Singapore next year), as world number one Serena Williams won the next two sets 6-3, 6-0. It was Serena’s 11th title of the year, and her 10th win in 11 games against Li Na, but after going into the game as a massive underdog, Li can be happy she at least forced a third set. Crucially, she now moves up to 3rd in the world rankings – a career high – by leapfrogging both Maria Sharapova and Agnieszka Radwanska.

Remember the Taiwan-China controversy at Wimbledon a few months ago? Politics aside, Peng Shuai and Hsieh Su-wei continue to perform well on the court, becoming the first Asians to win the WTA Championships doubles title by beating Russians Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina 6-4, 7-5. In the press conference aferwards, Peng asked her partner:

“Do we play together next year?”

The reply?

“It depends on if we fight or not in the next two months!”

(They were joking).

In golf, star attraction Rory McIlroy ended the BMW Masters in Shanghai in 27th place, 10 shots behind Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, who won by a single shot from Francesco Molinari and Thongchai Jaidee, despite a double bogey on the last hole. Long-time leader Luke Guthrie was a further stroke further back in 4th, while John Daly – second after round one – predictably slipped back and finished in 48th. 18-year-old Li Haotong was the best Chinese player, finishing in 42nd after a final round of 66.

McIlroy is in Hainan today for the Match at Mission Hills, his 18-hole duel with Tiger Woods. He won last year and needs the (admittedly empty) win more than the money. Tiger is banking a reported $2 million, while Rory will earn around $1.5 million. For one round of semi-competitive golf. More info here and live streaming (12.30pm start, China time) details here.

Just do it. For money.

Elsewhere, 15-year-old Guan Tianlang, who took part in a skills competition with Tiger and Rory on Monday, fell short in his attempt to qualify for next year’s Masters, as he finished in eighth at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship – the tournament he won last year to earn his Masters invitation. In fact, it was another Chinese youngster, 16-year-old Dou Zecheng, who came closest at the the Nanshan International Golf Club in Longkou, Shandong Province, but he ended in fourth after a poor final round, six shots behind Korean winner Lee Chang-woo, 19, who will be heading to Augusta next year.

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting take on Chinese golf here. There are a couple of mistakes, but it’s good on the background and worth a read.

And finally, Guangzhou Evergrande are in good shape to win the Asian Champions League final after securing a 2-2 draw in the first leg in Seoul. It would have been even better but for a late equalizer from the hosts, but two away goals put them in the driving seat for the second leg in Guangzhou on November 9. Here’s an extract from this week’s Sports Talk column:

[A win] would add yet another ­illustrious chapter to the storied career of World Cup-winning manager Marcello Lippi, who would also become the first manager to win both the ­European and Asian versions of the competition should Guangzhou get the required ­result. Lippi recently clinched his ­second – and the club’s third – consecutive Chinese Super League title, and his 17-month stint in charge of the club has been exemplary.

Lippi has already been ­touted as a future national team manager of China, and if his club can do enough in the ­second leg to win the trophy, those shouts will only become louder, despite the putrid reign of the country’s latest foreign recruit Jose Antonio Camacho.

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