If you’ve never heard of Shuai Peng, don’t feel too bad. She’s a Chinese journeywoman on the WTA circuit currently ranked #53 in the world. “Russian” world #15 Maria Sharapova probably hadn’t heard of her either when the two met on the court in Beijing at the China Open last week .
But Sharapova may now be keeping herself more up to date. In Sharapova’s second match of the tournament the two players contested 18 games and Sharapova won only six of them. Though tossing in roughly the same first-serve perecentage as her opponent, Sharapova was only able to win half her first serve points and was outplayed in every aspect of the game, getting blown off the court after, inexplicably, receiving one of only three first-round byes allocated among the 64 players in the draw, allowing her to avoid a first-round drainer.
World #1 Dinara Safina, for instance, didn’t receive one of those byes. And she probably wished she had, since she too was blown of the court by an unknown Chinese player in her second match of the tournament. Shuia Zhang, who destroyed Safina, came into the match ranked a shocking #226 in the world. Zhang is so obscure that the WTA website doesn’t even have her photograph. Ouch. Zhang was then promptly crushed in her next match by the #14 seed Marian Bartoli in easy straight sets.
And, believe it or not, the news got still worse for Safina.