Romania’s Monica Niculescu recorded the biggest win of her seven appearances at the Shenzhen Open as she steamrolled past the fourth seeded world No.22 Jelena Ostapenko 6-0 6-2 in the first round in just 52 minutes on Centre Court.
The 31-year-old world No.99, who came through qualifying, only lost her serve once at the start of the second set, while converting six of eight break chances against her higher ranked Latvian opponent, who notched eight double faults and won just 26% of her 35 service points.
In the other first-round match on January 1st, Chinese wildcard Peng Shuai was forced to pull out of her thriller against the Czech Republic’s Kristyna Pliskova when she suffered from cramps midway through the third set; the score stood at 3-6 7-6(6) 3-3 after two hours and 26 minutes.
At 4-5 down in the second set, Pliskova saved two match points and even though she failed to convert the first five set points she had, two in the twelfth game at 6-5 up and three consecutive set points at 6-3 up in the tiebreak, the 26-year-old Czech eventually took the match to a rubber on the sixth time of asking.
In the second round, wildcard Vera Zvonareva, the oldest player in the singles draw at 34-years-old, turned back the years with a powerful display to defeat 21-year-old Serbian qualifier Ivana Jorovic 7-5 4-6 6-4 in an intensely fought match lasting two hours and 37 minutes. Zvonareva will next face qualifier Veronika Kudermetova, who became the second Russian to book her quarterfinal spot as she romped to a 6-2 1-6 6-2 victory over tournament No.8 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in one hour and 34 minutes.
Romania’s Sorana Cristea continued her fine start to the season with a 6-2 6-2 dismantling of Frenchwoman Pauline Parmentier in 68 minutes. The world No.84 saved the only break point she faced in the fifth game of the first set and converted four of the five she fashioned to move into Thursday’s quarterfinal where she’ll face American Alison Riske who rallied from a set down to defeat Russia’s Evgeniya Rodina 4-6 6-3 6-3.