x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

As big as Olympics for Zheng

Zheng Jie reached the second round of the China Open yesterday, now Jie will be aiming to reach semis on her home turf.

BEIJING // Zheng Jie reached the second round of the China Open yesterday, becoming the only local woman to do so after four others disappointed the home fans with first-round losses. In the last three months, Zheng has reached the Wimbledon semi-finals and claimed the Olympic bronze medal in doubles with partner Yan Zi. But beating Poland's Agnieska Radwanska 6-2, 6-3 yesterday might matter just as much - to fans and sponsors trying to establish a tennis base in China.

"I felt as a Chinese player in an event in China, I should perform well," she said. "This is very important for me." Zheng reached the semi- finals last week in a WTA event in Guangzhou in southern China, but caught a cold in the process. "I actually thought about withdrawing, but the China Open is in my homeland so I thought I should stay and keep trying." The four other Chinese women in the first round all lost Monday. Fortunately for Zheng, her match was delayed a day due to rain, which allowed her to shake off a fever. She also got another break when rain delayed the start of play four hours.

Zheng became a national heroine, saying after her Wimbledon success that she would donate her winnings to help survivors of the May 12 Sichuan earthquake that killed 70,000. Zheng is from the Sichuan city of Chengdu, but has not had time to go home. "As a professional I should finish my season first," Zheng said. "I plan to go back." * AP