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Peng pulls upset, downs No. 4 Radwanska

By Cindy Cantrell
Wednesday, August 27, 2014

WHAT HAPPENED: No. 4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland is known for her crafty play, and all of her creative flair was on display in her second-round match against Peng Shuai in Louis Armstrong Stadium. What Radwanska needed on this day was a tad more consistency.

The world No. 59 from China was the steadier player throughout, repeatedly thwarting Radwanska’s attempts to dictate play in the 6-3, 6-4 upset that made the favored Pole the highest-ranked player to fall at this year's Open.

Randwanska, the 2012 Wimbledon finalist, had break points to lead 3-0 in the first set before Peng's double-fisted strokes found their mark, matching each spin, drop shot, lob and acute angle stroke for stroke. The reigning Monteal champion was especially punished on short second serves, which Peng attacked relentlessly to seize the opening set.

Randwanska had a chance to get back in the match but failed to convert break opportunities early in the second set, playing into Peng’s strengths with defense that too often produced short balls and easy put-aways. Peng subsequently broke to lead, 3-2, by pummeling Radwanska’s 67-mile-per-hour second serve, and claimed the match with the last of her 28 winners (compared to her opponent’s 19).

After missing her first two match points, Peng said she struggled to put aside memories of squandering match points in her fourth-round encounter with Radwanska at the 2011 Australian Open.

“I told myself to fight, and don’t think about that match,” she said. “This is an amazing time for me.”

WHAT IT MEANS: This is Peng's fourth victory over a Top 5 opponent but her first in a Grand Slam tournament. Her solid shot-making and net play is enhanced by her doubles prowess. Earlier this year, she became the first-ever Chinese player to attain a No. 1 ranking in doubles. Currently the world No. 3 doubles player and a six-time singles runner-up, she is still looking for her first singles title.

Radwanska, meantime, is coming off her 14th career singles title at Montreal, where she defeated Venus Williams in the final. Although 11 of those titles have been on hard courts, she has not advanced beyond the fourth round at the US Open in nine attempts.

THE QUESTION: Can Peng reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament (including the 2011 US Open) for the sixth time by continuing her winning ways against No. 28 seed Roberta Vinci of Italy?