Li Na cruised through to the third round of the Australian Open on Wednesday with a 6-0, 7-6 win over Swiss teenager Belinda Bencic, while Zheng Jie had a tougher battle, eventually downing American Madison Keys 7-6,1-6, 7-5. But for all the talk about China’s new generation of tennis players (here and elsewhere), Li and Zheng were the only two to make it out of the first round – from the eight who made the main draw.
Their form is not surprising: Li is a two-time finalist in Melbourne and, of course, also won the 2011 French Open; Zheng has reached two Grand Slam semis in her career (Wimbledon 2008, Australian Open 2010) and had a good win over the 12th seed Roberta Vinci in the first round.
But elsewhere it was the old story: Wu Di lost in straight sets to Kenny de Schepper, while debutant Zhang Ze took the first set against Fernando Verdasco, but then lost the next three. On the women’s side, Zhang Shuai, Tang Haochen and Duan Yingying all failed to win a set.
Only Peng Shuai emerged with any credit, pushing Kurumi Nara to three sets, despite vomiting on court and crying in pain from subsequent cramps. She also received a violation for time wasting, though said afterwards she had been physically unable to walk. To add insult to injury, her heroic performance was then ignored in this lengthy BBC piece detailing how the hot weather took its toll on the players, in which 17 players are mentioned but not the one who was arguably affected the most (in a tie with Canada’s Frank Dancevic, who fainted).
Speaking of the BBC, they might want to brush up on their Asian politics: Taiwanese player Chan Hao-ching (shown here watching a teammate) was referred to as “Chinese” in this caption, despite being clearly labelled in the AP original. Hopefully, it’s not the start of another Taiwan-China tennis spat…