Dubai: Peng Shuai, the newly crowned champion of the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge, is looking ahead to getting a few more successful seasons under her belt before she bids goodbye to her playing career.
Peng, who turns 33 on January 8, claimed the 21st Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge with a dominant 6-3, 6-0 win over second-seeded Viktoria Kuzmova at the Habtoor Grand Beach Resort and Spa on Saturday.
Making her maiden appearance at this annual $100,000 ITF Women’s Circuit competition, Peng is already looking ahead to “good old times” that saw her scale to No. 14 in the singles on the WTA Rankings while enjoying the world No. 1 in the doubles in February 2014.
However, a recent right knee injury has kept the Chinese player out for some time while her singles rankings slipped down till her win in Dubai brought her to a current No. 180.
Once upon a time China’s top player, Peng was banned earlier this year for breaching the sport’s anti-corruption programme by attempting to change her Wimbledon doubles partner through coercion after the players’ sign-in deadline.
The Tennis Integrity Unit announced a $10,000 fine and a three-month ban on the player, while her former coach Bertrand Perret from France also got an identical ban.
“We need to move on and my focus now is on the next tournament in Shenzhen [the Shenzhen Open starting on December 30] after which I will turn my attention to Doha and Australian Open. I plan to play in the singles and the doubles at the start of the season and that would need an extra amount of energy. So this tournament has helped me prepare for things to come in the future,” Peng said.
China currently has four players in the top-100 led by Qiang Wang at No. 20, followed by Shuai Zhang (No. 39), Shuai Zhang (40) and Yafan Wang (70). Peng has two career singles titles and reached the 2014 US Open semi-final. She also has two Grand Slams teaming up with Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei to win at Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014.
“I will have a different partner next season and the idea is to just take things as they come. I am really looking forward to 2019,” she added.
“Look at the trend in tennis at the moment. All players are playing at their best later on in the careers. I think I too have a lot to offer still and that’s what makes me hopeful for a few more years.”