RICHARD EATON Associated Press China's most successful player Zheng Jie is convinced she's on her way to reach the group of highest ranked players after defeating Alla Kudryavtseva of Russia 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 on Tuesday in her opening match at the Aegon Classic grass-court tournament.
Zheng helped fuel Chinese tennis after becoming the country's first player to reach a Grand Slam semifinal in Wimbledon in 2008, where she made history two years by winning the first ever doubles title.
Although the 28-year-old player has not fully recovered from a wrist surgery, she won a see-saw struggle with a dangerously hard-hitting Russian during Zheng's climb in the WTA rankings.
''It's really good to be back on grass and I aim to be back in the top 20 again'' said Zheng, who is ranked No. 32.
She will play against the No. 76th-ranked Anne Keothavong of Britain in the second round. Keothavong advanced after beating the 12-seeded Tamira Paszek of Austria 6-2, 7-5.
Eleventh-seeded Iveta Benesova of the Czech Republic was also ousted Tuesday after losing her opening match 6-2, 6-1 to Tara Moore of Britain. Benesova blamed the court's surface for her loss, saying that the grass was ''not really playable.''
She said the court was ''full of holes'' and complained that play had started too early on Tuesday after the first day of the Birmingham tournament was washed out by rain the day before. Benesova also criticized her coach, Martin Fassati, saying he pushed her to play on the grass surface even though she had told him that grass ''was not my thing.''
After wowing never to come back, the emotional Czech also said: ''It's not like it's the grass. It's me.''
Melanie Oudin of the United States ousted another seeded player after the first round by defeating 10th seeded Sorana Cirstea of Romania 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.