Li Na / Li Ting Set to Make History (Article)
Historic All-Chinese Semifinal in Guangzhou
GUANGZHOU, China - It's been a week of firsts at the $170,000 Guangzhou International Women's Open in southern China. This is the first time this Tier III event has adorned the WTA Tour calendar. It's the first time this season no seeds have reached the singles semifinals of a WTA Tour event. Most interesting for the local fans is that it's the first time two Chinese women have reached the semifinals of a Tour event.
Li Ting and Li Na (pictured) will square off in Saturday's semifinals, guaranteeing China's first Tour finalist since Li Fang at 1998 Makarska, Croatia. Either player will aim to become China's first-ever Tour singles champion, having had six runner-up finishes between 1995 and 1998.
On Friday, 24-year-old Li Ting, a wildcard into this event, overcame compatriot Shuai Peng, 62 62, having conceded just eight games en route to the semifinals.
Li Na, 22, who owns a 42-3 record for the season, winning three ITF Circuit titles to open 2004, accounted for the last remaining seed, defeating No.6 Kristina Brandi, 64 60.
The other finalist will be either first-time semifinalist Barbora Strycova or experienced Slovak Martina Sucha.
Eighteen-year-old Strycova, a former junior Grand Slam champion, defeated Russian teenager Dinara Safina, 64 61, while 23-year-old Sucha overcame Tamarine Tanasugarn, 76(7), 75.
Should Li Ting win the title, she will become the third lowest-ranked player (No.222) ever to win a WTA Tour singles title (not including six unranked Tour champions). The lowest-ranked Tour singles champion was No.579 Angelique Widjaja at 2001 Bali. Should Li Na win, she would become the third qualifier to win a Tour singles title this year after Benesova (Acapulco) and Nicole Vaidisova (Vancouver).
Like the two Li players, Barbora Strycova is playing her first Tour semifinal. Martina Sucha is the only player to have progressed this far in a tournament, having won 2002 Hobart, finished runner-up at 2001 2001 Bratislava and 2004 Budapest and reached the semifinals at 2001 Quebec City and 2002 Helsinki. If Sucha does not win the title, the Guangzhou champion will be the seventh first-time WTA Tour singles winner of 2004.
As mentioned earlier, there are no seeds at the singles semifinal stage of a WTA Tour event for the first time this season. It will produce only the second Tour final of 2004 not to feature any seeds. The first took place in February at Acapulco, when qualifier Iveta Benesova defeated Flavia Pennetta.