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China's Peng Shuai and Li Zhe, each 32 years old and playing for the city of Tianjin, captured Australian Open main-draw wildcards with victories at the Hengqin International Tennis Center on Dec 2.
A former world #14 and currently ranked 82nd in the world, Peng is to face Chang Kai-chen of Taiwan in the Women's Singles finals at the 2019 Australian Open Asia-Pacific Wildcard Playoff. Peng won their first bout at 6:2 despite an early 4-1 lead held by Chang, who had to retire after the first set due to injury. Peng is off to the Australian Open main-draw competition next year for the 14th time.
Carlos Rodriguez, former coach of Australian Open champions Justine Henin and Li Na, flew from Beijing to Zhuhai to witness Peng's play.
Later in the Men's Singles finals, Li Zhe won a hard-fought battle against Zhang Ze at 1-6 7-6(2) 6-4, the biggest victory of his career so far.
Li, also on his way to next year's Australia Open, is the third male player from the Chinese mainland, after Wu Di and Zhang Ze, to make it to a Grand Slam Men's Singles main draw. And he is eager -- in an interview, he expressed hope of facing stars Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic.
Li Zhe [Photos provided by Organizing Committee]