Week 40 of the 2013 WTA Tour sees the players make the relatively short journey from Japan to China for the Beijing Open.
Played on outdoor hard on an average paced DecoTurf surface, the conditions tend to be a fair bit slower than we saw in Tokyo last week and this is not helped by the poor air quality in the Chinese capital. Many players over the years in both the men’s and women’s tournaments, which are staged concurrently this week, have attested to the tough conditions here. Fitness will be key.
With just a five hour time difference between Beijing and the UK there will be a few more matches to watch at a reasonable hour this week and there are 11 WTA matches on the schedule on Sunday, including Serena Williams, Li Na and Aga Radwanska.
But the late matches, starting at 2.30pm UK time and later feature Maria Kirilenko and Sabine Lisicki.
Maria Kirilenko vs Jie Zheng
Chinese wild card Zheng gets a night time slot here in a tournament she’s been playing at since way back in 2004, with, it has to be said, mixed fortunes. Since making the semi-final here in 2008, Zheng has won just one match in Beijing and she has another tricky task here first up in Kirilenko.
The good news for Jie is that Kirilenko has been in poor form for a while now and hasn’t won more than two matches at any single event since the French Open. The even better news for the Chinese is that Kirilenko has been struggling with a knee problem and withdrew from Tokyo last week after failing to be competitive in Seoul against Kimiko Date-Krumm, who turned 43 yesterday.
Zheng and Kirilenko have met on eight previous occasions stretching all the way back to 2003 and Jie has a 5-3 lead overall, but that fact won’t be too relevant on Sunday. It’s all about Maria’s fitness and the Russian’s motivation here is likely to be less than great if she’s not fully fit, while Zheng will be determined to do well in her home country after a bad run here lately. The 2.25 on Zheng is worth risking in these circumstances.
Sabine Lisicki vs Chanelle Scheepers
The Wimbledon finalist may also be in less than great shape after pulling out of Tokyo citing a fever and it’s a little bit of guesswork as to her condition having not played since the US Open.
Her opponent today will have a much better idea of playing conditions having come through two rounds of qualifying and I don’t think that taking a price like 1.27 on Lisicki is a wise move in the circumstances. The German should win this, but lacking in match practice and weakened by fever isn’t great preparation for a tournament where energy can be sapped very quickly by the poor air quality.
My other concern here is Lisicki’s record in this event in which she has failed to complete in two of her three appearances, with one retirement and one walkover. This suggests a somewhat questionable attitude here and it’s quite likely that her stay in Beijing will be a brief one having never bettered the second round before. The South African should fancy her chances in this and Scheepers +1.5 sets at 1.96 looks the call.
Back Zheng to beat Kirilenko at 2.25
Back Scheepers +1.5 sets to beat Lisicki at 1.96