SHENZHEN, CHINA: World No. 9 Li Na rose to the challenge of world No. 46 Galina Voskoboeva on Saturday to seal China’s 2-0 victory over Kazakhstan and with it their advancement to the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group II play-offs later this April.
Shuai gives hosts early lead
Dorothy was right… there is no place like home, and that was certainly the case for China’s Shuai Peng, whose centre court appearance was in slow motion during the opening morning march, but roared back with a vengeance to overwhelm Kazakhstan’s Yaroslava Shvedova 63 36 61 and capture her nation’s first win of the day.
“I can’t even try to explain what it is like to try to react to one of Shvedova’s serves,” said Shuai. “When she is on her game, Yaroslava has a wicked serve that is nearly impossible to return. I was very lucky today.”
Shuai was spot on in the first set but quickly discovered that the 25 year-old Shvedova, in their first head-to-head match-up, brought a secret weapon into centre court… a machine gun that replaced her right arm, as the towering 1.80m Russian simply aimed and let loose fireball serves that the much shorter Shuai, at 1.73m, was simply unable to return.
But the power of home court advantage was clearly evident as the Chinese overflow crowd, all 800 strong, consistently rallied the Chinese right-hander to her challenge. Shuai never faltered in the third set and, when leading 3-1, the Chinese attacker methodically began to chip away at the giant Shvedova’s height and strength advantages. The Kazakh’s will to win was completely shattered as she began to wilt under Shuai’s unrelenting attack.
Li secures win
Not one spectator left their seat for the day’s second rubber when the 30 year-old Li, China’s No. 1 hope for Olympic tennis gold this summer in London, challenged the Russian-born, now Kazakhstan tennis superstar, Voskoboeva, eventually prevailing 61 36 61.
When the ever-confident Li strode onto centre court, it was akin to a college algebra professor challenging a kindergartener to a math test. Saturday at the Luohu Tennis Club, Li showed that she is at the pinnacle of her career and truly at Olympic-ready form.
If there is any weakness shown during Li’s sparkling performance, it was in the second set. Like her teammate Shuai, Li struggled with the amazingly accurate and lightning fast serves from her Kazakh opponent. Weapons are not allowed at any tennis match but someone forgot to tell that to Voskoboeva, who transformed her right arm into a twin of Shvedova’s gun-toting right arm as serve after serve simply exploded over the net.
Perhaps fitting that Saturday’s play-off tie at a local Shenzhen Tennis Club as the ever calm Li held fast in the third set and put on a clinic to her younger challenger, winning the third set easily, propelling China into the hunt for a possible berth in World Group II.
With the result decided, the doubles rubber wasn’t played leaving the final score at 2-0 in China’s favour. Kazakhstan remain in Group I for 2013, while China will take there place in April’s World Group II play-offs as they bid to seal promotion to Fed Cup’s second tier. The draw for the play-offs is on 14 February in London.
At the other end of Asia/Oceania Zone Group I, Indonesia were condemned to relegation after losing 3-0 against Uzbekistan, while Chinese Taipei defeated Thailand 2-1 in the third-fourth place play-off.
Coming in the other direction are India, who defeated Hong Kong, China 2-1 on Saturday to secure their promotion from Asia/Oceania Zone Group II.
Click the link below for more information about Asia/Oceania Zone Group I, including individual results from each tie.
- Asia/Oceania Zone Group I