WTA Qatar Total Open: China's Zheng destroys Australian Open Champion Kerber 7-5, 6-1

Saisai Zheng of China following her victory over Australian Open Champion Angelique Kerber at the WTA Qatar Total OpenDoha: Nothing succeeds like success they say and no sooner had Angelique Kerber of Germany won the Australian Open last month, that tennis aficionados started comparing her to the legend, Steffi Graf.

On Tuesday, however, Kerber’s fans must have been made to mince words when the top seed went down to unseeded Chinese Saisai Zheng in straight sets on the Centre Courts of WTA Qatar Total Open.

The 72nd ranked Chinese made sure that World No. 2 Kerber was a far cry from the living legend in her 7-5, 6-1 second round drubbing.

The Chinese onslaught began rather early, with Zheng breaking the German in the very first game. Call it psychological advantage, but often early breaks set the tone to the rest of the set if not the match. The advantage, however, was short-lived, and Kerber struck back to break her in the next. The trend continued till the fourth game with both players attacking each other’s serve rather than focusing on their game.

Finally, when the set lay levelled at 2-2 that Kerber retained her serve to go 3-2 up, but the 22-year old Chinese followed suit and it was even-steven till very end. By now the game had become more nerve-wrecking than pure tennis.

Zheng had somehow sensed that the more experienced Kerber had started showing signs of weariness. It was then that the Chinese strategy (to be understood as China never gives up) came to the fore. The strategy simple, yet effective did the job for Zheng.

She retained her serve in the 10th, broke Kerber in the next and followed it up with a win to finish the first set 7-5.
Often the body language offers a glimpse into what’s going on the courts and one look at Kerber would have told a keen observer that the German was a ‘gone girl’. Her shoulders had started to droop; the intermittent grunts had turned high-pitched as against while Zheng, who had started showing signs of confidence. There was a marked spring in her steps and it influenced her game in the second set.

Kerber had retained her first serve, when Zheng struck back and won the rest of the games to flatten the German defence 6-1.

But Zheng gave due credit to her opponent saying that “it certainly wasn’t her best and I am delighted with the win.”

And 28-year old Kerber too admitted that it wasn’t her day.
“I don't know. I think it was completely not my day. That's actually it. I was not feeling the ball. I was not finding my rhythm at all. I made too many mistakes. It was not my game.”

“But, still, actually I was practicing very well in the last few days. But today, also my practice this morning was not the best. So I was feeling, yeah, not good from the beginning,” she added.

Disappointment was writ large on Kerber’s face and she didn’t shy away from admitting it too.
“I mean, I've played so many good matches this year, so I will try to take just the positive things and also the good practice days I had here. Sometimes you have days like this and, yeah.”

A day of upsets

But it wasn’t just Kerber, who was unlucky on the day, for another seeded player was shown the door in the second round. Serbian Jelena Jankovic, the 14th seed, too lost to an unseeded player.

Romanian Monica Niculescu defeated the Serbian 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 in another three-set encounter on Court No. 1.


Saisai Zheng (CHN) d [1] Angelique Kerber (GER) | 7 - 5 | 6 - 1
[WC] Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) d Denisa Allertova (CZE) | 7 - 6 | 7 - 5
[5] Petra Kvitova (CZE) d Barbora Strycova (CZE) | 7 - 6 (2) | 6 - 4
Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) d [12] Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) | 7 - 6 (5) | 6 - 0
[8] Carla Suárez Navarro (ESP) d [Q] Donna Vekic (CRO) | 7 - 6 (5) | 6 - 4
[3] Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) d [Q] Kateryna Bondarenko (UKR) | 6 - 4 | 6 - 4
Monica Niculescu (ROU) d [14] Jelena Jankovic (SRB) | 3 - 6 | 6 - 4 | 7 - 5
[9] Roberta Vinci (ITA) d Daria Kasatkina (RUS) | 2 - 6 | 6 - 4 | 7 - 6 (3)
Coco Vandeweghe (USA) d [6] Belinda Bencic (SUI) | 6 - 4 | 6 - 2
Andrea Petkovic (GER) d Margarita Gasparyan (RUS) | 6 - 3 | 6 - 3
Timea Babos (HUN) d [16] Sara Errani (ITA) | 6 - 4 | 6 - 1 |
[11] Timea Bacsinszky (SUI) d Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) | 6 - 2 | 7 - 6


[WC] P Kvitova / B Strycova (CZE/CZE) d [WC] O Jabeur / O Mourad (TUN/QAT) | 6 - 0 | 6 - 1
K Bondarenko / O Savchuk (UKR/UKR) d N Broady / A Rosolska (GBR/POL) | 6 - 4 | 6 - 2

Photo Credit: Vinod Divakaran