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Yuan marvelous in Miami to continue hot streak

By SUN XIAOCHEN | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-03-21 07:24
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Yuan Yue of China hits a forehand to Anna Blinkova of Russia during their Miami Open first-round match on Tuesday in Miami Gardens, Florida. Yuan won 6-4, 6-2. GETTY IMAGES/AFP

With the magical chemistry with her new coach still working wonders, China's rising tennis star Yuan Yue extended her recent momentum Stateside with a smooth opening win in Miami.

Yuan was among three Chinese women, including younger compatriots Wang Xinyu and Wang Xiyu, who passed their respective first-round challenges at the Miami Open, a WTA 1000 tournament, on Tuesday to maintain the collective surge of Chinese players on the circuit.

Yuan's 6-4, 6-2 victory over Russia's Anna Blinkova was her 10th win from her last 11 matches, after she reached her first WTA 1000 quarterfinal at Indian Wells on a nine-match winning streak, only to lose to world No 3 Coco Gauff on Friday.

Despite dealing with the physical and mental fatigue of three weeks of intense play, not to mention a long journey from California, Yuan still managed to maintain high energy levels throughout the two sets against Blinkova at Hard Rock Stadium, winning 68.6 percent of her first-serve points while breaking the Russian power hitter six times.

The triumph was Yuan's first win as a top-40 player, earning her $34,500 as she reached the second round in Miami for the first time.

Next up she will take on No 8 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece on Thursday.

Yuan won her first WTA title in Austin, Texas on March 3 before impressing with a deep run at Indian Wells. She credits the support of her new coach, Jose Hernandez-Fernandez, as a major reason for her recent success.

"The best thing he does is that he always stays calm and positive, always trusts me and encourages me," Yuan said during an online interview with commentator Liu Zhongming before Tuesday's win.

"He gives me a lot of support psychologically, which has helped to build my self-confidence to an all-time high over the past three weeks," added Yuan, who only began working with the former ATP player from the WTA 250 event in Austin.

Despite being proud of her rapid climb up the rankings, Yuan vowed not to get carried away by the surge.

"I will still take one step at a time. Playing well at one or two events in a row doesn't guarantee smooth sailing all the way," said Yuan, who reached a career-high ranking of No 36 on the live WTA system thanks to Tuesday's win.

"A professional tennis career is a bumpy, long road. I will stay prepared for all the ups and downs coming my way."

Hernandez-Fernandez, known as "Bebo" on the tour, has heaped praise on Yuan's commitment and passion, and envisions that the 25-year-old can reach heights that even she may not expect.

Should Yuan continue to play with the confidence and composure she has exhibited over the past three weeks, she has a chance to go beyond her own goal of cracking the world's top-30 this season, the 34-year-old Dominican told Liu.

After beginning their linkup with an initial three-tournament trial, Yuan and Bebo have agreed to extend their cooperation until the end of Wimbledon, with future plans to be decided.

Earlier on Tuesday, world No 43 Wang Xinyu got the Chinese contingent off to a flying start in Miami by beating local favorite Hailey Baptiste 7-6 (1), 6-3. The big-serving 22-year-old will next face world No 19 Veronika Kudermetova of Russia.

Another young ace Wang Xiyu, also 22, cruised into the second round with a 6-1, 6-3 defeat of Slovakia's Anna Karolina Schmiedlova to set up a clash against 22nd-seeded Anna Kalinskaya of Russia in the next round.

China's top-ranked woman Zheng Qinwen, the world No 7 and an Australian Open finalist in January, will swing off her Miami campaign against Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic on Thursday.

In the men's singles draw, China's leading ace Zhang Zhizhen, ranked 49th in the world, was scheduled to face local player Martin Damm Jr in the first round on Thursday, with his fellow countryman Shang Juncheng matched against No 46 Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia.



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