Former Chinese Junior Fed Cup player, Yi-Miao Zhou, 18, is this month’s featured player on the ITF Pro Circuit.
Making her first singles main draw appearance on the ITF Pro Circuit since September 2009, Zhou was named the No. 8 seed at the event held at the Quanzhou Blossom-Garden Tennis Center in Quanzhou. This city in southeastern Fujian province was hosting a $50,000 tournament, double the prize money offered in 2009 when the city held its first women’s tournament on the ITF Pro Circuit. Zhou, who was looking to improve on her second round finish at the 2009 tournament, began in emphatic fashion, seeing off her Chinese Wild Card opponent, Chang Liu, 60 60. Her second round opponent, who was in the main draw as a Lucky Loser, was Yi Zhong, another fellow Chinese player, and she too was defeated by Zhou in straight sets with Zhou dropping just five games. This win took her into a Quarterfinal against a third consecutive Chinese opponent, Yi-Fan Xu, a Wild Card entrant and Zhou’s doubles partner at the 2009 tournament. Once again, Zhou wasted little time in securing victory, this time 62 61, and moved into a Semi Final encounter with Ukrainian sixth seed, Yuilya Beygelzimer. With both players having yet to drop a set in this event, something had to give as the players took to the court with a place in the final awaiting the victor. As was to be expected given both players excellent performances leading into this clash, the opening set of this Semi Final was closely fought with Zhou eventually taking the set 64. Now just one set from a first appearance in a singles final on the ITF Pro Circuit since August 2009, Zhou stepped up a gear and dropped just two games in the second set to wrap up a 64 62 win.
Facing Zhou across the net in the final, and standing in her way of a first singles title since her success in Sydney, Australia in March 2009, was Serbia’s Aleksandra Krunic. Krunic, who had come into the main draw via the qualifying event, would prove to be a tough opponent having already accounted for the fifth seed earlier in the tournament and also the No. 1 seed in her Semi Final despite having dropped the opening set. The first set went against Zhou for the first time in this tournament and she was now faced with the task of having to come from behind if she was to take the title. As in the first set which finished 63 in Krunic’s favour, both players fought hard and another close set ensued but unfortunately for Zhou, like the first set it was Krunic who came out on top, this time winning 75, bringing her a first singles title outside of a $10,000 tournament.
Zhou also entered into the doubles event here in Quanzhou as a Wild Card entrant with Wan-Ting Liu. With a change of partner from the 2009 tournament, Zhou made it through to the final, improving on her first round exit the previous year with Yi-Fan Xu when the pair was forced to withdraw without hitting a ball. The path to the final was not an easy one with all three rounds leading up to the final having to be decided on a match tiebreak. Surprisingly, the final, despite being against the No. 1 seeded pairing, proved to be a far more comfortable match with Zhou and Liu running out 61 62 winners. This title was Zhou’s fourth doubles title of her career to date on the ITF Pro Circuit and her first since June 2009.
The China-ASEAN Tennis Training Base in Pingguo, China, provided the setting of the next tournament for Zhou this month and like the tournament in Quanzhou, Pingguo was hosting a women’s ITF Pro Circuit tournament for the second time. In 2009, at this same venue in Pingguo, Zhou reached the final where she finished as runner-up and now, one year on, she was hoping to go one better and claim the title. Zhou, named the No. 4 seed, got her tournament off to a flying start with a 63 62 first round win over Thailand’s Nudnida Luangnam and followed this with another straight sets victory in the second round, winning 75 63 against Ayaka Maekawa from Japan. The Quarterfinal brought about another meeting with opposition from Japan and also saw Zhou drop her first set of the tournament. Her Quarterfinal opponent was Chiaki Okadaue, the eighth seed and after taking the opening set 63, Zhou quickly surrendered this one set lead as Okadaue levelled the match with the loss of just one game in the second set. Fortunately Zhou re-discovered her form in the decisive set and soon won the match 63 16 60. Her Semi Final didn’t last too long as her Chinese opponent Chun-Mei Ji retired from the match with Zhou leading 61 10, providing Zhou with an easy passage into the final.
The tournament’s third seed from Greece, Anna Gerasimou, was next to face Zhou. Gerasimou, a regular member of the Greek Fed Cup squad since 2004, was playing in her fifteenth career singles final on the ITF Pro Circuit but any hopes she had of adding to her seven previous successes were soon dashed as Zhou cruised to the title with a 63 60 triumph. As in 2009, Zhou took part in the doubles event and improved on her first round loss with Shuai Zhang as third seeds by reaching the Semi Final. With Chinese partner Jun-Yi Zheng and named fourth seeds, she made an exit with a 64 64 loss to the No. 2 seeds and eventual doubles champions.
With the first month of 2010 over, Zhou’s career record playing on the ITF Pro Circuit now stands at five singles titles from seven finals and four doubles titles from eight finals.