China’s Zheng Jie was a virtual backboard Monday night at the Apia International Sydney against Aussie Sam Stosur, the world No.42 beating the home favourite 6-3, 6-7 (7), 6-4 on Ken Rosewall Arena court.
It was a match of dramatic twists and turns that Stosur at one point looked like she would crash out of and then another looked as though she was in the driver seat.
But it was late in the third that Zheng flourished, winning four straight games to gain a 5-3 lead. Stosur broke to stay in it, but couldn’t stave off a third match point with a backhand into the net.
Matt Ebden, the wildcard, pushed seeded Marcel Granollers in the first round earlier in the day on Centre Court, but lost 5-7, 7-5, 6-1.
Ebden was the better player for much of the match, taking a set and a break lead. But he wasn’t able to capitilise on several opportunities, and after losing the second set wilter in the third against the Spaniard.
A year ago the Perth native beat Granollers in the same round, but this time it wasn’t meant to be.
Prior to Ebden’s effort, 2011 Sydney champ Li Na was made to work hard against American Christina McHale, winning 7-6 (2), 6-2.
Roberta Vinci of Italy played two tough sets against world No.12 Petrova in Monday’s first match, knocking off the Russian 7-5, 7-5.
In men’s singles, Australian wildcard James Duckworth made the most of his opportunity on Grandstand, but fell just a hair short against higher-ranked Denis Istomin, a semifinalist here a year ago. Istomin won 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (3).
Another Australian wildcard, Casey Dellacqua, didn’t have the close match that Duckworth did, losing to 42-year-old qualifier Kimiko Date-Krumm, the Japan native winning 6-4, 6-1 on Grandstand.
Earlier, American Madison Keys, ranked No.134, shocked No.17 Lucie Safarova in a convincing 6-2, 6-1 effort. Keys, a teenager, qualified.
On Court 6, former world No.1 Jelena Jankovic held off a healthy challenge from Tamira Paszek, winning 6-2, 7-6(5). Elsewhere, qualifier Galina Voskoboeva claimed a come-from-behind win over Yanina Wickmayer, 3-6, 7-6 (6), 6-2.
Ayumi Morita, another qualifier, also came back to beat a higher-ranked player in three sets. She won 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 over former top 5 player Daniela Hantuchova.
Li, who won here in 2011 and was runner up a year ago, had her hands full with the 20-year-old American who is still recovering from an illness suffered last year. The Chinese No.1 is a the fourth seed here. She won last week at the WTA stop in Shenzhen.
Two-time major winner Svetlana Kuznetsova won her fourth match in three days, beating higher-ranked Julia Goerges of Germany, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. Kuznetsova had to qualify after a series of injuries pushed her outside the top 50.
Frenchman Julien Benneteau, a finalist here a year ago, beat tough Spaniard Marcel Granollers 6-3, 5-7, 6-2.