Asian hopes alive at French Open

Defending champion Li Na quickly disposes of Sorana Cirstea in first round match as other Asian players also go through.

    Asian hopes alive at French Open
    Li Na of China waves to the crowd after winning her match against Romanian Sorana Cirstea [GETTY]


    Chinese defending champion Li Na and compatriot Zheng Jie kept Asia's Grand Slam hopes alive on Monday with convincing first-round victories at the French Open.

    Li demolished Romania's Sorana Cirstea 6-2, 6-1 while Zheng beat Alize Cornet of France 6-4, 6-4 as the Asians capitalised on experience to pull through.

    Unheralded Taiwanese qualifier Chan Yung-Jan, 22, joined the two mainland Chinese women with a 6-1, 7-6 (10/8) upset win over Ukranian Kateryna Bondarenko, the world number 65.

    But Thailand's veteran women's singles player Tamarine Tanasugarn, 35, was swept aside by Spain's 23-year-old Carla Suarez Navarro 6-0, 6-3.

    Another Chinese woman, 30th-ranked Peng Shuai will see action on Tuesday against Tamira Paszek of Austria.

    Li, the world number seven, took just 58 minutes to dispose of the 22-year-old Cirstea, ranked 43, with a display of superior cross-court ball striking.

    Seventh-seed Li is bidding to become the first champion since Justine Henin in 2007 to defend the women's singles title at Roland Garros but was modest about her chances of a repeat.

    "I'll just try my best," Li said, adding that she worked hard on her footwork in the run-up to the French Open.

    Patchy form

    Li made history last year when she won in straight sets against Schiavone, giving Asia its first ever singles title in any Grand Slam.

    But her performances since then have been patchy - she has not won a title since then and lost to Maria Sharapova in the final last week in Rome after squandering a commanding lead.

    "It's tough for me to stay at the same level all the time," Li said.

    The sight of a Chinese flag, as she walked onto the main Philippe Chatrier court, boosted her confidence before facing Cirstea.

    "I was telling myself, you can do even better."

    Li will face either Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic or France's Stephanie Foretz Gacon for a place in the last 32.

    Zheng beat Cornet, also banking on her experience to clinch the match.

    Zheng, 28, fought back after twice being broken to 4-4 to serve out both sets against the 22-year-old Cornet in front of the disappointed French crowd.

    On Tuesday, Japan's evergreen Kimiko Date-Krumm, at 41 still in the world's top 100, will face off with 2010 champion, and current world number 12, Francesca Schiavone of Italy.

    On the men's side of the draw, Japan's 68-ranked Tatsuma Ito will face world number four Andy Murray.

    SOURCE: AFP


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