Taiwan’s Chan Yung-jan and Zheng Jie of China lost their doubles semi-final at the Aegon Classic in Birmingham, England, on Saturday, falling to a 7-5, 6-3 defeat to fourth-seeded Spanish duo Garbine Muguruza and Carla Suarez Navarro.
The cross-strait pairing saved 13 of the 17 break-point chances they faced and converted two of four, but it was not enough as their opponents won 71 of the 119 points contested to wrap up the victory in 1 hour, 21 minutes at Edgbaston Priory Club.
In yesterday’s final, Muguruza and Suarez Navarro were due to face Czech duo Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka, who cruised past Michaella Krajicek of the Netherlands and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-2 in Saturday’s other semi-final.
Photo: screen grab from Facebook
Chan and Zheng were heading south to Eastbourne to compete in the doubles of the final grass-court warm-up tournament before Wimbledon. Also taking part in the Aegon International this week is Chan’s younger sister, Chan Hao-ching, who is teaming up with Flavia Pennetta of Italy — Hsieh Su-wei’s regular partner.
In the singles on Saturday, Karolina Pliskova, the 1.85m Czech, was on the brink of the world’s top 10 after beating both the rain and the week’s biggest giant-killer to reach the final.
Pliskova’s 6-2, 7-6 (8/6) much-interrupted win over Kristina Mladenovic, the unseeded French player who had downed three seeds, carried her to her first grass-court final, giving her the chance of climbing to another elite landmark.
Already the youngest player in the top 12, the 23-year-old would take Angelique Kerber’s No. 10 ranking if she won yesterday’s final against the German, whose game looked in good order as she outplayed compatriot Sabine Lisicki 6-3, 6-3 in the other semi-final.
However, Pliskova might not have made the final had she not produced some brave blows while saving three set points during the second-set tiebreak. She also summoned much resilience to deal with three rain delays lasting 2 hours, 20 minutes in total during a match which was just 1 hour, 20 minutes long.
“I was used to all that because I had it in my first match,” said Pliskova, whose second day required her to complete two matches in order to catch up with the weather-affected schedule.
As if in retribution for her comments, the rain returned with extra force mid-interview, requiring ground staff to heave the court covers around her feet and bring her victory speech to a premature end, although Pliskova had given an accurate summary of the match.
“I was shaking [at the end],” she said. “She [Mladenovic] played better in the second set than the first and a third set would have been very tough. The end of the match was key. I was trying to stay calm and to center on every point and to hold serve.”
Mladenovic’s performance contained elements of that which accounted for the top seed Simona Halep the previous day — a rather slow start, gradual improvement in the timing of her ground-strokes and an admirable obstinacy when it came to the big points.
Unfortunately, her early break of serve in the second set was countered immediately by Pliskova, and even more unfortunately she began facing three match points at 6-3 in the tiebreak with drizzle already beginning to return for a fourth time.
Despite the defeat, Mladenovic is likely to be rewarded with a leap in the rankings from 43rd to above her career-best 36th.
Lisicki delivered a record 27 aces on Wednesday and had reached a total of 45 in three matches before encountering the resilient Kerber.
This time Lisicki was allowed only three. Moreover her serve was broken early, in the third game, and then twice more without reply.
Once she had returned the ferocious delivery, Kerber often did damage with her left-handed forehand as she pummeled Lisicki’s backhand corner.
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