Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Feisty Sugiyama, giantkiller Lu bow out of Aussie Open

MELBOURNE : Fiesty Japanese number one Ai Sugiyama and Taiwanese giantkiller Lu Yen-Hsun bowed out of the Australian Open on Friday, leaving China’s Zheng Jie and Peng Shuai as Asia’s last hopes.
Veteran Sugiyama, playing in her 60th Grand Slam, put up a brave fight on centre court against world number one and top seed Jelena Jankovic but breathing difficulties and cramp hampered her chances.
The 33-year-old eventually slipped out of her 15th Australian Open 6-4, 6-4.
After shocking 10th seed David Nalbandian in the biggest win of his career, world number 61 Lu was brought crashing back to earth by Spain’s Tommy Robredo.
Lu never got going and slumped out 6-1, 6-3, 6-2, depriving him of a crack at Andy Roddick in the next round. But he will be content in knowing it was his best performance in 13 Grand Slams.
Sugiyama said the heat affected her, but doesn’t know why as she usually handles it well.
Asked if she was happy with her performance, she said: “Yes and no.
“My expectation was a little bit higher. I don’t know why but I couldn’t breathe properly today, somehow it was very shallow and I had cramping towards the end.
“It’s strange because normally I’m good at playing in the heat. I usually like it but today I wasn’t feeling great.”
Sugiyama called a medical time-out in the second set, telling officials she was having trouble breathing as trainers placed bags of ice on her legs.
She said she would consult a doctor but believes it was only minor dehydration.
Jankovic ran to a 5-2 lead in the first set before Sugiyama hit back and was pushing hard with a 30-love lead as the Serb served at 5-4 when a disputed line call went against her.
It clearly irked her and she argued with the umpire.
“It shouldn’t have been a point for her, they should have replayed it. It was really strange,” she said afterwards.
Jankovic rattled through the second set and paid tribute to Sugiyama, who is one of the most experienced women on the tour.
“Ai is a tough opponent, she doesn’t really give me any free points,” she said.
“She fights very well and is a very solid player. I had to work for every point. I’m just happy to get through this kind of match.”
Asian hopes now rest with Zheng and Peng.
They play their third round matches on Saturday with Zheng having the easier task, up against unseeded Ukrainian Kateryna Bondarenko.
Peng faces world number two and three-time champion Serena Williams in a match few expect her to win.
– AFP/ir

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