Taiwan’s Chang Kai-chen and Zhang Ze of China advanced to the second round of the mixed doubles at the Australian Open yesterday, setting up a showdown with Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay on Court 2 in the second round today.
The cross-strait duo defeated Anna-Lena Groenefeld of Germany and Jean-Julien Rojer of the Netherlands 6-2, 4-6, 10-6 on Show Court 3 yesterday in 1 hour, 9 minutes.
Cheng and Zhang saved four of six break-point opportunites and converted three of eight to set up today’s Taiwanese showdown at Melbourne Park as Zhang became the first male Chinese player to win a match at a Grand Slam.
“I really wanted to get the win in singles, but mixed doubles also is good,” Zhang told The Associated Press.
Zhang lost his first-round singles match to Australian veteran Lleyton Hewitt last week.
A crowd of Chinese journalists were at the post-match press conference, with Zhang receiving a round of applause, and he was asked whether he thought he would get as much attention back home as Li Na’s historic Australian Open women’s singles victory.
“Of course,” he said. “Because I’m famous.”
In the singles, Maria Sharapova was all business as she raced into the quarter-finals to set up a glamor showdown with Eugenie Bouchard, while Rafael Nadal continued his unrelenting Grand Slam march.
The Russian world No. 2 ended Chinese hopes by swatting aside 21st seed Peng Shuai 6-3, 6-0 as she lifts her game the deeper she gets in the tournament.
It hands organizers a dream last-eight clash between two of the most marketable players on tour with Canadian seventh seed Bouchard surviving a mid-match slump to defeat unseeded Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania in three sets.
Nadal, a 14-time Grand Slam champion, was dominant after a tight first set against power-hitting South African Kevin Anderson, running out a 7-5, 6-1, 6-4 winner and faces Czech Tomas Berdych for a place in the semi-finals.
The consistent Berdych, who made the final four last year, ended Australian Bernard Tomic’s tournament with a comfortable 6-2, 7-6 (7/3), 6-2 hit-out.
“After a tough period of time for me it’s a fantastic result and I’m very happy with the way I played today,” said Nadal, who came into the tournament after a three-month injury layoff. “It was probably my best match here this year so that’s very important for me and very special.”
Another Australian, Nick Kyrgios, came back from two sets down and staved off a match point to beat Roger Federer’s shock conquerer Andreas Seppi of Italy 5-7, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/5), 8-6 to give local fans something to cheer about ahead of their national day today, becoming the first Australian to reach the quarter-finals of his home slam since Lleyton Hewitt in 2005.
Britain’s Andy Murray booked his 16th successive grand slam quarter-final with a 6-4, 6-7 (7/5), 6-3, 7-5 victory over Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov.
Sharapova, gunning for a sixth Grand Slam title and her first in Australia since 2008, said her match against Peng was tougher than the score suggested.
“I’ve always had a little trouble against Peng Shuai, she’s a really tough competitor,” she said.
The Russian added that Bouchard, the tour’s most consistent performer at Grand Slams last year who pushed her in their French Open semi-final, would be another big challenge.
“She’s been playing incredibly well, confident aggressive tennis. I have a tough match ahead of me.”
The popular Bouchard is widely seen as a future major champion after her semi-final appearance at Melbourne Park last year, a feat she matched in Paris before making the Wimbledon final.
It did not go all her way against Begu, who sparked to life in the second set to push the ambitious 20-year-old to a third before winning 6-1, 5-7, 6-2.
Dangerous Romanian third seed Simona Halep also went through, battling past unseeded Belgian Yanina Wickmayer 6-4, 6-2 and will meet Russian 10th seed Ekaterina Makarova for a place in the semi-finals.
Makarova blitzed unseeded German Julia Goerges 6-3, 6-2 to maintain her no-nonsense form, having yet to drop a set.
It is the third time the Russian has made the quarters in Melbourne after strong runs in 2012 and 2013.
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