Confident Zheng boosts China charge at Australian Open

Updated: 17 January 2012 18:22 IST

Zheng Jie became the third Chinese woman through to the second round of the Australian Open on Tuesday as Japan's Kei Nishikori led the Asian men's challenge in Melbourne.

Confident Zheng boosts China charge at Australian Open
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Melbourne:

Zheng Jie became the third Chinese woman through to the second round of the Australian Open on Tuesday as Japan's Kei Nishikori led the Asian men's challenge in Melbourne.

Zheng, who reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open in 2010, came to Melbourne full of confidence after winning the Auckland Classic earlier this month, and she lost just three games against US wildcard Madison Keys.

She joins China's French Open champion Li Na and 16th seed Peng Shuai in the second round after her 6-2, 6-1 win, although 127th-ranked Zhang Shuai, handed a wildcard, lost to Canada's Aleksandra Wozniak.

"I have had good practice before this year after my injury last year and I think my win in Auckland gave me confidence. I will be ready for a comeback," Zheng said.

Zheng, who missed last year's Australian Open with a wrist injury, said it would be tough to match her run in 2010 as she has a difficult draw, with Italian 23rd seed Roberta Vinci up next.

"You never know because two years ago I didn't think I would be in the semi-final. I'll just do my best, enjoy my matches," said the 28-year-old.

Nishikori, seeded 24th, beat Stephane Robert of France 6-1, 7-6 (9/7), 6-0 and was joined in the second round by wildcard Ito, who battled past Italy's Potito Starace in four sets.

Nishikori is seeded for the first time at a grand slam but said he had tried to put his new-found status to the back of his mind.

"I try not to think about it because if I start thinking, you know, it's more pressure. So it is different, but I try to not think about it," he said.

And the 22-year-old, ranked as low as 98th at the end of 2010, said any pressure he felt was more to do with his higher ranking than as a result of being the best Asian men's player.

"(My ranking) gives me a little bit of pressure because I feel like I have to win with these guys. I have to play with lower-ranked guys now. That gives me a little bit of pressure."

"A lot of Asians are coming, so I'm proud that I'm one of the guys," he added.

Nishikori, the highest-ranked Japanese men's player in history, said his goal was to reach the quarter-finals in Melbourne, which would top his previous best performance at a grand slam.

"I played the US Open 2008 and I made the last 16. That's the next goal for me," he said.

Ito, ranked 117th, who was given a wildcard for the Australian Open, lost the second set but prevailed 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 against Starace.

And Thailand's Tamarine Tanasugarn went down 0-6, 6-2, 0-6 to Ekaterina Makarova of Russia.

Veteran Tamarine, who has appeared in 57 grand slams, the most for any active female singles player, said she was disappointed not to have made progress.

"The last couple of years I've been playing second round (Kim) Clijsters (2010) and (Maria) Sharapova in the first round (2011)," said the 34-year-old, ranked 93rd in the world.

"So this year I was pleased I didn't play the big seeds in first round. But on the day she played better than me."

Her fellow Thai Danai Udomchoke lost to French 12th seed Gilles Simon in a five-set battle 1-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/5), 3-6, 3-6.

Topics : Kei Nishikori Tennis Australian Open 2012
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