Peng Shuai of China returns a shot against Flavia Pennetta of Italy during their first-round singles match at the China Open at the National Tennis Center in Beijing on Monday. Pennetta won 7-6 (6), 7-5.
Zheng Jie is the only Chinese player to reach the second round of Open
BEIJING - Playing at home is not always an advantage as it can often result in more pressure and distractions.
After China's top player Li Na was knocked out on Sunday due to, in her words, a lack of confidence and increasing pressure from outside, China's world No 15, Peng Shuai, also suffered a first-round exit at the China Open on Monday, leaving Zheng Jie as the only Chinese player to reach the second round.
After bouncing back from being a set down to oust Italian Brianti Alberta 4-6, 6-1, 7-5, Zheng put her victory down to her mental strength and support from the home audience. Meanwhile, Peng was eliminated by Flavia Pennetta of Italy 7-6 (6), 7-5.
"Chinese players have to take up more pressure on their home courts, because there are more expectations now," said 28-year-old Zheng. "Also, I am not satisfied with my performance today. It's always hard to play the first game, and I was nervous.
"When I was behind 0-4 in the third set, I thought victory was slipping away, but I told myself not to give up," she said. "To play professional tennis with my physical attributes, I must have something others don't have, which is the determination to hold on until the last minute, and play with a full effort no matter what the circumstances."
Home 'advantage' matters
Zheng said the encouragement of the fans also gave her a lot of confidence, though she blew one match point after hearing a fan shout the ball was out.
"I heard someone shout 'out' at match point, and the umpire said it was not her, but someone in the audience," she said. "The fervent cheers from the audience provide motivation, but they also can increase the pressure.
"Of course, players want to have a quiet environment to play, that's the best, but we can't control the audience, what we can do is adjust our mindsets," said Zheng. "From another perspective, the fans are supporting me. If we try to look at it like that when on court we can put ourselves at ease."
Zheng also revealed she may partner Peng in the women's doubles at the London Olympics.
"I hope we have the chance to play together, but we have to check with our teams," Zheng said. "Peng played well in singles this year, and I also want to lift my single's ranking fast; therefore we need to find out how can we practice doubles together while not affecting our singles form.
"I think we have an 80 percent chance of playing at the Olympics together," she said.
In another match on Monday, world No1 Caroline Wozniacki ousted Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic 3-6, 6-0, 7-5.