Fifth seed Luksika Kumkhum of Thailand produced the biggest upset of the L and T Mumbai Open tennis tournament here Friday by knocking out top seed Saisai Zheng of China to enter the semi finals of the 125K WTA event.
Luksika fought back brilliantly after dropping the opening set, hitting hard and deep with her double-fisted forehand as well as backhand, besides attacking the net at opportune times, to carve out an impressive 3-6 6-4 6-4 victory in 2 hours and 17 minutes at the Cricket Club of India hard courts.
It was the second time in three meetings stretching back to 2013 that the Thai player, ranked 103rd, had beaten Saisai, ranked 47th who had made the second round of Wimbledon this year, and both her victories had come this year the first one in a 25K ITF event in Japan in April.
In their first ever meeting, Saisai had beaten the Thai woman in three sets in a 5k WTA event in her home country.
Incidentally the Chinese had sent India number two Karman Thandi packing in the first round while Luksika had come back from 2-5 in the third set to get past national number three, Pranjala Yadlapalli, in the round of 32.
Luksika will meet sixth seed Margarita Garparyan on Saturday in the semis. The latter had a tough time before getting her way past Montenegro's Danka Kovinic, conqueror of fourth seed Olga Danilovic of Serbia, 7-6(4) 4-6 6-1.
Luksika lost the opening set tamely as she was broken thrice by her higher-ranked Chinese opponent. She then stormed her way back by breaking Saisai in the fifth game of the second set.
Although she was broken back immediately, Luksika broke her opponent's serve again in the seventh game for a 4-3 lead and then clinched the set on the first set point when she led 5-4.
The momentum, by then, had clearly shifted towards the Thai player.
She jumped to a commanding 5-1 lead by breaking her rival thrice before the Chinese top seed fought back to retrieve two service breaks.
Saisai later saved two match points when serving at 3-5 to hold her serve.
But she could not get the third service break that she needed to stay in the hunt and lost the match by hitting her backhand into the net when facing the third match-point on the Thai's serve.
"The second set was pretty close. I missed a few points and she was more aggressive. I did not start the third set well. I picked up in the end but it was not enough," said Saisai after her shock defeat.
"I had a long season and it is difficult to play in this weather," she added.
Luksika, a third round loser after coming through the qualifiers in the Australian Open at the beginning of the year, said she doesn't give up easily when faced with difficulties.
"Sometimes you have nothing to lose and just have to find a way to win. When it's a tough day I don't think about it and just keep playing," the 25-year-old Thai said.
"I have played Saisai earlier this year and it was quite different that time," she said about her earlier win over the top-50 player from China.
Saisai's exit meant that the draw has lost three out of the four top seeds the others being no 3 Sachia Vickery of USA and no 4 Olga, who both lost in round one, by the quarter final stage.
Results: Singles (quarter finals): 5-Luksika Kumkhum (THA) bt 1-Saisai Zheng (CHN) 3-6 6-4 6-4; 6-Margarita Gasparyan (RUS) bt Danka Kovinic 7-6(4) 4-6 6-1.
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