After taking a 60 53 lead, the second-seeded Kuznetsova had a bit of trouble closing out her Chinese foe, losing three straight games before forcing a tie-break that she was victorious in for a 60 76(3) triumph - her third in three meetings with Zhang and her first win of the season.
With a career record of 500-233, Kuznetsova joined Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Tamarine Tanasugarn, Jelena Jankovic, Francesca Schiavone, Nadia Petrova, Flavia Pennetta, Daniela Hantuchova and Maria Sharapova in the 500-win club.
No.1 seed Sabine Lisicki, last year's Pattaya City runner-up, survived a 75 26 64 battle with Donna Vekic. Also advancing was No.8 seed Peng Shuai, 61 76(1), over Patricia Mayr-Achleitner. There was one upset, with Karolina Pliskova a 62 64 winner over No.7 seed Bethanie Mattek-Sands in a rematch of last year's Kuala Lumpur final, which was also won by the Czech.
Securing her 300th career match win was another Czech, Andrea Hlavackova, a 62 64 victor over Estrella Cabeza Candela. And despite facing nine break points, Alison Riske did not surrender a game against Anabel Medina Garrigues.
There was a big surprise in doubles, with Noppawan Lertcheewakarn and Vera Zvonareva knocking off No.1 seeds Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina fresh off the Russians' runner-up showing at the Australian Open.