Stuttgart | Zheng flies, as Noskova knocks out Ostapenko

Zheng Qinwen flew in from China and eased past Sorana Cirstea at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, while Linda Noskova upset Jelena Ostapenko, Marketa Vondrousova saw off Donna Vekic, and Elise Mertens earned herself a crack at top seed Iga Swiatek after beating local wild-card Tatjana Maria.

I'm trying to not be disturbed by what others are saying about me, to know who I really am. Obviously I am still on the road to try to explore who I am. Tennis just shows me a lot about who I really am. Zheng Qinwen

Zheng, the 5th seed, overcame jet-lag to make short work of Cirstea, 6-2 6-3, in 76 minutes to open her European clay-court campaign on Tuesday, having travelled from Changsha to Beijing, and then on to Frankfurt before a final leg to Stuttgart.

“It was not easy, but I sleep on the plane, so the time passed fast,” she explained in the on-court interview.

Zheng, who played her first clay-court matches of the season last week, winning both of her singles rubbers in Billie Jean King Cup Group I action on home soil, will face either Indian Wells semi-finalist Marta Kostyuk from Ukraine or former Stuttgart champion Laura Siegemund, a local wild-card, in the 2nd-round.

Against Cirstea, Zheng got off to a quick start in both sets, racing out to double-break leads of 3-0 in the first and 4-0 in the second with a flurry of winners.

The 21-year-old’s backhand was rock-solid, and accounted for a substantial proportion of her 18 total winners, but she also delighted the crowd with her fine touch on the drop-shot, and a wonderfully angled pass in the second set.

With a hefty lead under her belt, Zheng suffered a slight dip in both sets, as errant forehands in the first led to Cirstea getting on the board with 2 straight games, and the Romanian’s power game began to click in the second as she won 3 in a row.

Zheng’s insurance break, though, proved crucial both times, and she righted the ship to close out both sets efficiently.


Iga Świątek (pictured) and Zheng Qinwen have been announced as Lancôme Brand Ambassadors this week

Gosia Turczyńska for Lancôme

The Chinese has cause to celebrate as she also becomes a Lancôme Brand Ambassador alongside Swiatek, the World No 1 who announced her latest endorsement of the luxury fragrance and cosmetics brand on social media on Monday.

Zheng, popularly known as ‘Queenwen’, was named the WTA’s Most Improved Player of 2023, and is at a career-high ranking of No 7 after beginning the 2024 season by reaching her first major final at the Australian Open, the best result by a Chinese player since Li Na won in Melbourne 10 years ago, in 2014.

“I always try to find who I am,” she told WTA Insider in a podcast released this week. “I don’t want to think I am the best in the world. Obviously, that is not the right mentality. But I don’t want to be too low, that I’m not good enough. That’s not the right way to think. I’m trying to not be disturbed by what others are saying about me, to know who I really am.

“Obviously I am still on the road to try to explore who I am. Tennis just shows me a lot about who I really am.”

Zheng is already endorsed by the likes of Nike, Wilson, and Gatorade, and has graced magazine covers like GQ China.


19-year old Linda Noskova upset 8th seed Jelena Ostapenko in Stuttgart

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Meanwhile, 19-year old Linda Noskova cruised past an out-of-sorts Jelena Ostapenko, 6-3 6-1, to clinch her 3rd Top 10 win of her fledgling career.

The young Czech, who is making her debut in Stuttgart, needed just 68 minutes to dispatch the 8th seed from Latvia, and reach the 2nd-round where she awaits the winner of the opening match between Britain’s Emma Raducanu and home favourite Angelique Kerber, who play on Wednesday.

Noskova upset Swiatek in the 3rd-round of the Australian Open on her way to her first Grand Slam quarter-final and defeated Maria Sakkari in Doha.

On Tuesday, she raced out to a 5-1 lead with two breaks of serve, and although Ostapenko pulled one break back in the 8th game for 3-5, Noskova earned 3 set points in the 9th with a return winner, and converted her first chance to clinch the first set.

Breaking twice in the second, the Czech sailed through the set with the loss of just 1 game, having converted all her 5 break points in the match.


No 6 seed Marketa Vondrousova beat Donna Vekic in straight sets on Tuesday

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Another Czech, Marketa Vondrousova, seeded 6, beat Donna Vekic from Croatia, 6-4 6-3, in an hour and 26 minutes to also reach round 2.

The reigning Wimbledon champion converted 4 of her 8 break points, after first going 2-4 down in the opener and before winning 4 games in a row to clinch the set.

Vondrousova broke in the 4th game of the second to take a 3-1 lead, and earned 3 game points to lead 4-1, but Vekic pulled back on serve at 3-2 with a passing winner.

Earning another break to take a 5-3 lead after a drop-shot misfire by Vekic, Vondrousova served out the win with 2 consecutive aces.

Vondrousova now leads 2-1 in her head-to-head matches against Vekic.


Elise Mertens overcame wild-card Tatjana Maria to set up a first-time meeting with World No 1 Iga Swiatek

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Also, Belgium’s Elise Mertens overcame German wild-card Tatjana Maria, 6-1 4-6 6-0, to set up the first clash of her career against Swiatek, who is enjoying her 99th week as World No 1.

“At the age of 22, it’s unbelievable what Swiatek has already achieved,” Mertens said. “Definitely in the future, she will achieve a lot more. She is a bit, like, an all-court, all-around player, so you don’t really find a lot of weaknesses. That’s why she is world number 1.”

This year’s Abu Dhabi champion Jasmine Paolini cruised past her doubles partner, qualifier Sara Errani, 6-1 6-0, in an all-Italian encounter, with 3 breaks of serve in each set and needing just 46 minutes.


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