BEIJING, China - Defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska notched her fourth straight-sets victory in a row against China’s No.1 Zhang Shuai to reach the third round in Beijing, winning 7-5, 7-5 in just under two hours.
“I was ready for it to be a tough one,” Radwanska admitted after the match. “I think the key for me was I was playing very good in the important moments. Obviously, it was a very tight match, but in the important shots I think I did the right thing.
“I knew the crowd was going to be loud, and maybe a bit against me, but it was still a great atmosphere even though it was very late.”
Radwanska, the No.11 seed, has often seen her best tennis come out in Asia; half of her 20 career titles have come on the continent. Two of those title came at the China Open alone, where she’s also been a runner-up and two-time semifinalist.
The Pole, however, hasn’t had a fruitful Asian Swing and has yet to lift a trophy in 2017. Nevertheless, she came into Beijing looking to end the season on a high note - while her opponent Zhang came into their second-round matchup full of confidence after winning the title in Guangzhou.
But Radwanska has been a stopper for Zhang in the past; the pair have met three times previously - including here in Beijing back in 2012 - and Radwanska has won all six sets. History repeated itself again at the National Tennis Stadium on Tuesday, with the Pole making it eight out of eight sets against Zhang.
Though the two are familiar foes, both players started the match deadlocked, feeling out each other’s game in the opening exchanges. They stayed level for much of the opening set, trading breaks as Zhang recovered from an early Radwanska lead. Zhang did well to take the ball early and frustrate Radwanska, while the Pole pulled from her bag of tricks for highlight-reel worthy dropshots, passing shots and variety.
When it came time to close out the set, Radwanska got rock-solid, reeling off the last three games in a row to close her out.
Things got off to a tricky start for the Pole in the second set, though, as Zhang roared ahead in commanding fashion, grabbing an early break and building up a 3-0 lead. Zhang enjoyed a brief letdown in Radwanska’s game, teeing off on her second serves and stepping into the court to find the angles.
But much like in the first set, Radwanska recovered with aplomb, weathering three breaks in a row to serve out the match after an hour and 50 minutes.
Through to the third round for the sixth time, the Pole will face Daria Kasatkina next after the Russian took down Lara Arruabarrena 6-4, 7-5 earlier in the day.
“I’m not sure if I’ve played against Kasatkina ever, so that’s always a new challenge,” she explained. “Actually, I love to play someone for the first time - it’s always something exciting, especially after so many years on tour.
“She’s a very talented young player, and I’ve seen many of her matches. I”m very happy I get to play against her for the first time.”