The first few tournaments of a new season usually throw up some surprises and on Thursday the Shenzhen Gemdale Open in China was no different.
The Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli who is ranked at no 11 and seeded 2 in this tournament, was eliminated in the quarter finals by Klara Zakopalova in two easy straight sets 6-3 6-2 in a match that took just one hour and eleven minutes.
Zakopalova, 28th ranked and seeded at 5, is a crafty all court player who has had a great start to the season, taking out big serving Andrea Hlavackova in the first round and up and coming Elina Svitolina in the second before coming up against Bartoli in the quarters.
She will next play Monica Niculescu in the semis. These two players have not met in the past. Romanian Niculescu, ranked at 58 and unseeded in this tournament, also had an easy day at the office when she took out the lucky loser, 177th ranked Chinese player Yi-Miao Zhou 6-4 6-2 in just over an hour and a half.
Zhou had better first serve and break point stats, but Niculescu’s greater experience and all court skill in all other aspects of the game saw her into the semis in the lower half of the draw. Niculescu has beaten the wildcard Saisai Zheng in the first round before taking out the tournament’s 7th seed Laura Robson, in the second round before meeting up with Zhou. Zhou’s two main draw victories were against the American qualifier Jessica Pegula; and Kai-Chen Chang in the second round.