Romania's Monica Niculescu opened her 2019 campaign with a statement win, eliminating No.4 seed Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia in the opening round of the Shenzhen Open on Tuesday, by the score of 6-0, 6-2. Vera Zvonareva, Alison Riske and Sorana Cirstea reached the quarterfinals, while Veronika Kudermetova upset Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in an all-Russian affair.
World No.99 Niculescu claimed her 300th win on hardcourts at all levels to move to the second round for the first time in two main draw appearances here. The Romanian had won their only prior meeting at the Rogers Cup in 2016, but this was an even easier victory as she bagelled the 2017 Roland Garros champion in the first set by the loss of four points.
Ostapenko finished the match with 35 unforced errors to just 10 winners, winning only two of her 20 second service points. Ostapenko double faulted to allow her opponent to complete the bagel set. Three winners and three unforced errors were enough to create the edge over the former World No.5 who broke immediately to open the second set.
However, Niculescu won the last six hames of the match from 0-2 down in the second set and Ostapenko completed the nightmarish season-opener with a final double fault in the last point of the one-sided contest. Niculescu will face Krystina Pliskova who moved to the second round as Shuai Peng was forced to retire at 3-3 in the third set putting an end to her 10-match winning streak.
The Czech extended to 5-2 her record in Shenzhen although she lost in straight sets to the Romanian in their only previous meeting at 2015 Wimbledon, in the second round. Sorana Cirstea will face Alison Riske in the last eight of this first tournament of the season.
The Romanian won the majority of big points in her 63 62 victory over Pauline Parmentier. Cirstea claimed 74% of second serve points and erased the only break point conceded to her opponent to reach the first WTA quarterfinal since 2017 Bucharest.
Riske needed to come back from a set down to defeat 46 62 63 Evgeniya Rodina. The American won eight close games and completed eight breaks from eight looks and confirmed her particular feeling with this tournament having reached the final in 2016 and 2017.
Bidding for a 12th victory in Shenzhen, Riske will meet Cirstea for the seventh time, trailing 4-2 in the head to heads. They were tied 1-1 in 2018, but the Romanian leads 4-1 on hardcourts having not lost to Riske on this surface since their earliest clash in the Us Open qualifying rounds in 2007.
Also Vera Zvonareva had to dig deep to beat Ivana Jorovic 75 36 64. The Serbian qualifier was 3-0 in the deciding set but the Russian wild card claimed seven breaks from eight looks to complete her 110th three-sets career victory.
The Russian equalled her best result in Shenzhen, as she had to retire against Bacsinszky in the quarterfinals in 2015. She will face for the first time Kudermetova who reached her first quarterfinal since Gstaad last year.
The Russian qualifier beat 62 16 62 the No.8 seed Pavlyuchenkova thanks to six breaks to seal just her eight overall victory against a top 100 opponent.
WTA Shenzhen - Second round
V.Zvonareva (RUS) d. [Q]I.Jorovic (SRB) 7-5 4-6 6-4
S.Cirstea (ROU) d. P.Parmentier (FRA) 6-2 6-2
A.Riske (RUS) d. E.Rodina (RUS) 4-6 6-2 6-3
Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) d. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) 6-2 1-6 6-2
Kr.Pliskova (CZE) d. S.Peng (CHI) 3-6 7-6(6) 3-3 ret
[Q]M.Niculescu (ROU) d. J.Ostapenko (LAT) 6-0 6-2