TAIPEI, Chinese Taipei - Back in January, Zhang Shuai kicked off her season in underwhelming fashion, losing to World No.355 Asia Muhammed in the first round of an ITF Circuit event in Innisbrook.
However, this proved to be the most misleading of starts. Fast forward 10 months and Zhang is in the form of her life and knocking on the door of the Top 50. Next she heads to Tapiei for the second of two back-to-back WTA 125K Series events, having already won the first, in Nanjing, on Sunday.
First up at the OEC Taipei WTA Ladies Open, Zhang meets in-form Katarzyna Piter, with Vera Dushevina and No.7 seed Misaki Doi potential foes in the second round and quarterfinals. Meanwhile, Kimiko Date-Krumm, the top seed and her prospective semifinal opponent, faces a qualifier in the first round.
Leading the way on the other side of the draw is No.2 seed Yanina Wickmayer, who also gets her challenge underway against a qualifier. The other seeds are Ayumi Morita, Kurumi Nara, Caroline Garcia and Ajla Tomljanovic.
The tournament, staged on the indoor carpet of the city's multi-purpose Taipei Arena, is in its second year, with the inaugural title going to France's Kristina Mladenovic. It is the fifth and final WTA 125K Series tournament of the year, following stops in Cali, Suzhou, Ningbo and last week in Nanjing.