SPORT: Big China contingent to make waves

Beijing (China Daily/ANN) - Ten Chinese players, including the first male, will form the biggest contingent the nation has put together to challenge the world's best in a Grand Slam.

Boasting a solid record at the Australian Open, Chinese players are expected to deliver even better performances this year after the draw was released on Friday.

The nation's ace, Li Na, invigorated by new coach Carlos Rodriguez, heads into the season's opening major full of confidence after winning her seventh WTA title in Shenzhen and making the semis at last week's Sydney International.

As the No 6 seed, Li has been placed with No 4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the top half of the bottom bracket and will face Kazakhstan youngster Sesil Karatantcheva in the first round.

If Li overcomes Sorona Cirstea, who stunned her at Wimbledon last year, in the third round, she will possibly encounter local favourite Samatha Stosur in the last 16 before a potential rematch against Radwanska, who beat her in the Sydney semis.

Last year, Li ended her Open run after squandering four match points against Belgian Kim Clijsters in the fourth round.

Drawn in the same quarter with Li, veteran Zheng Jie will face teenage compatriot Zhang Yuxuan in the opening round.

The 18-year-old Zhang earned a berth in the main draw by winning the Asia-Pacific wild-card playoff, but is unlikely to stop Zheng, a 2010 semifinalist, from entering the second round, where she might meet Stosur.

Another hope, Peng Shuai, will swing off her campaign with an opener against much-lower ranked Canadian Rebecca Marino before a potential second-round battle against Russian 14th seed Maria Kirilenko, who leads their head-to-head encounters 2-1.

Two young players, Zhou Yimiao and Duan Yingying, survived the three rounds of qualifying to make the main draw for their first time.

On the men's side, another Asia-Pacific wild-card winner, Wu Di, will play against world No 74 Ivan Dodig of Croatia at his Grand Slam main draw debut. Wu, the world No 185, lags behind Dodig in size and pro experience. If he stuns the Croatian, a tougher challenge from No 19 seed Tommy Haas of Germany should await him in the second round.

China's other leading male player, Zhang Ze, didn't make it out of the qualifiers.

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