Seles starts 2003 with win in Hong Kong

HONG KONG (AP) — American Monica Seles began the new year with a winning start as she defeated unheralded Chinese Peng Shuai 6-2, 6-0 on Wednesday to reach the semifinals of the Hong Kong Ladies Challenge tennis tournament.

The nine-time Grand Slam champion proved too strong for 16-year-old Peng in the four-day exhibition tournament that features a field of eight players and runs until Saturday.

“She’s a fantastic junior player and she has a bright future ahead of her,” 29-year-old Seles said of Peng.

Seles’ fellow American Chanda Rubin, the world No. 13, also made it through to the semifinals by defeating last year’s finalist, Elena Dementieva of Russia, ranked 19th in the world, 6-4, 6-1.

Rubin, who underwent surgery on her left knee last January, beat Dementieva to earn a semifinal meeting against either American Alexandra Stevenson or Russia’s Anastasia Myskina, who both play Thursday.

Seles will play either Maria Sharapova of Russia or Bulgaria’s Magdalena Maleeva in the next round.

“I felt great and it was a nice match for me,” Rubin said, adding that she wanted to make some improvements in her future games.