Dubai: China’s former Grand Slam champion Peng Shuai was the lone exception in a quarter-final line-up of all seeds at the 21st Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge (AHTC) on Wednesday.
Peng, who reached a career-high ranking of world No. 1 in the doubles in mid-February 2014, dumped seventh seed Sorana Cirstea 6-1, 6-1 in less than an hour to stop all eight seeds entering the singles quarter-finals.
The march of the seeds was led by Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic with an easy 6-3, 6-2 win over qualifier Isabella Shinikova to set up a clash in the quarters against sixth-seeded Dubai regular Stefanie Voegele, who took little time in conquering India’s top player Ankita Raina 6-2, 6-2.
Third seed Tatjana Maria of Germany also advanced with another easy 6-2, 6-4 win over Katarina Zavatska to set up a last eight clash against China’s Peng.
In the lower half of the draw, second seed Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia played her second successive three-setter before getting past Luxembourg’s experienced player Mandy Minella 6-1, 2-6, 6-3. The 20-year-old Kuzmova will now meet fifth seed Mona Barthel in the quarter-finals after the German had got the better of Quirine Lemoine 6-2, 6-4.
Fourth seed Evgeniya Rodina will meet eighth seed Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia in the last quarter-finals. Rodina won 6-4, 6-2 against Bulgaria’s Viktoriya Tomova while Zidansek got the better of Dalma Galfi, the last wild card remaining in the draw 6-1, 6-1.
Peng, who won both her doubles Grand Slam crowns [2013 Wimbledon and 2014 French Open] along with Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei, a former champion at the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge, was pleased with the way in which she has adapted to the conditions in Dubai. “My focus today was to put her [Cirstea] under pressure from the start. She is a very good player and she can change her game. But I think today was my day and it helped that I got off to a much better start,” Peng said.
“After three days here, I am used to the surface and to the changing conditions on court. The early break in the second set also helped as the pressure was on her [Cirstea]. In tennis it is never about the score, but about just keeping the focus,” the 32-year-old Chinese added.
Play will start at 11am on Thursday with the first of four quarter-finals between Barthel and Kuzmova.