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Zheng boosts Olympic hopes with 1st win
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China's Zheng Jie gave her hopes of playing in the singles tournament at the Olympic Games a major boost on Wednesday when she became the only Chinese player left in the French Open by reaching the second round.

Zheng came from a set down to beat Italy's Mara Santangelo 4-6, 6-3, 6-0. She was scheduled to play Russian 21st seed Maria Kirilenko yesterday but the match was delayed due to the rain.

Zheng had to qualify for the main draw here after her ranking had slumped to 200 in the world, leaving her as the sixth best player in China.

Under Olympic rules, the host nation can only have four players in the first round of 64 in Beijing.

But Zheng's compatriots were not as lucky as her. Yuan Meng, who currently sits in the fourth qualifying slot for the Games, was knocked out of Roland Garros, losing 6-2, 6-2 to Estonia's Kaia Kanepi.

Chinese No 3 Peng Shuai saw her French Open campaign end in the second round yesterday when she slumped to a 6-4, 6-3 defeat to experienced Czech player Iveta Benesova.

Peng, the world No 64, was trying to make the last 32 here for the first time in three visits by defeating Russia's Anastasia Rodionova 6-0, 2-6, 6-3. But she was completely outplayed by Benesova who had to qualify and marked her determination by knocking out compatriot and 15th seed Nicole Vaidisova in the first round.

The Hunan-born Peng is excited about playing on home soil at August' Beijing Games as her second-round finish is likely to secure her the Olympics.

"I'm really excited about playing in the Olympics. It will be my first time in the Games but I'm sure there will be a lot of pressure. I'm not experienced in the sport so I hope to do my best," Peng told AFP.

China's fourth woman in the main draw, national No 2 Yan Zi, was knocked out in the first round, losing 1-6, 6-4, 8-6 to French veteran Emilie Loit on Monday.

National No 1 Li Na is missing from Roland Garros after undergoing knee surgery in April.

Zheng, twice a Grand Slam doubles winner with Yan, was the first Chinese woman to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam singles tournament here in 2004.

But she missed all the post-Roland Garros schedule of 2007 through injury.

(AFP via China Daily May 30, 2008)

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