SHENZHEN, CHINA: World No. 9 Li Na dominated host team China’s 3-0 victory over cross-straits challenger Chinese Taipei on Thursday with her own decisive 62 60 singles win against Kai Chen Chang in Pool A of the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Asia/Oceania Zone Group I event.
Security at the Luohu Tennis Club was extraordinarily tight as a national TV audience watched China’s Jie Zheng open morning competition with a hard fought 62 63 win over Chinese Taipei’s Su-Wei Hsieh.
“Hsieh really brought her ‘A game’ and pushed me all over the court. This match was much closer than the final score,” said Zheng.
An overflow throng of partisan spectators waited intently for Li’s match to begin and were not left dangling as China’s No. 1 player solidly delivered the goods on centre court in her straight sets triumph. The final result never seemed to be in doubt as every move Li made was watched with spellbound fascination by the Shenzhen crowd.
Li reaches superstar status
During the post-match press conference, and in front of a massive Chinese media horde, Li was reluctant to speak of her chances at the upcoming London Olympics and instead was surprisingly reflective how global fame and fortune has impacted her personal life.
Enclosed by dozens of TV cameras and reporters, Li said, “I really can’t go or be alone anywhere” as she lamented over her superstar status in China.
China’s modern-day version of Elvis Presley, Li seems trapped by her own on-court success, saying, “My personal life is no longer mine. I can’t do anything without people now wanting to come up to me, touch me, sign an autograph or even buy me dinner”.
She did say that on-court success and media attention has led to, “a groundswell of interest by millions of budding young female tennis players across China and I am pleased to be an ambassador of tennis in China. There is bright future for this sport in China,” she concluded.
Perhaps reflective of her feelings towards the gigantic media pack following her in Shenzhen, Li quickly headed for the exit immediately following the post-match press conference.
China’s duo of Peng Shuai and Zhang Shuai, coupled for the first time, capped the night with a 75 46 62 doubles win against Hsieh and Chia Jung Chuang.
'Bring it on' - Lertcheewakarn
In Pool B, Noppawan Lertcheewakarn fought off Sung-Hee Han for a 75 61 win, helping Thailand to a 3-0 win over Korea, Rep., and now the 20-year-old is already looking ahead to a possible showdown with China in Saturday’s play-off.
“Bring it on,” said Lertcheewakarn, adding, “we are playing really well as a team and we are not frightened to face China in the finals. We are as good as anyone in this tournament.”
Lertcheewakarn admitted, “We may not be one of the tallest teams in this tournament but we make the difference with our grit and determination. We have been fighting and fighting every day and we are not afraid of anyone. Not even big bad China.”
Thailand first has to get past a surging Kazakhstan tomorrow as the Kazakh duo of Yaroslava Shvedova and Sessil Karatancheva easily brushed aside their Pool B rivals Indonesia in straight sets today. Galina Voskoboeva teamed with Shvedova for a 61 76(3) doubles victory to cap an impressive 3-0 scoreline.
Fed Cup grudge match
“Can’t we just play Thailand right now?” quizzed Shvedova when asked about tomorrow’sclash with Thailand. She added that both she and her Kazak teammates “are hungry, ready to go and are playing our very best. We are really excited about matching-up against Thailand. We’ve got a score to settle with them.”
They certainly do. Thailand leads Kazakhstan in all-time head to head matches 7-1. The last time these two teams met was on Thai home turf at the National Tennis Centre in Nonthaburi in 2001 with Thailand sweeping aside visiting Kazakhstan 3-0.
Also slated for action on Friday, China will host Uzbekistan in centre court and Korea, Rep. will face Indonesia. The leading nation in each pool after tomorrow’s ties will advance to meet each other on Saturday with the winner of that fixture advancing to the World Group II play-offs in April.
Click the link below for more information about Asia/Oceania Zone Group I, including individual results from each tie.
- Asia/Oceania Zone Group I
Zheng Jie (CHN) - 02/02/2012
Noppawan Lertcheewarkarn (THA) - 02/02/2012