Last year, Zhang did not play a match on grass, but she has certainly looked at home in Birmingham, seeing off Shahar Peer and Petra Cetkovska to reach her first WTA quarterfinal on the surface.
The Turning Point
Zhang looked slightly overawed when she stepped on court, yet there were no signs of nerves in her early play, a couple of crisp returns catching Stephens unaware and handing her the early break. With Stephens struggling to make much of an impression on return, this break proved to be decisive, Zhang wrapping up the set when a drive volley from Stephens caught the tape.
Stephens was struggling to mask her frustration, and an early break in the second set did little to lighten her mood. Two games later, it deteriorated further when a Zhang passing shot dipped onto the baseline to secure the double break. Stephens continued to battle away, but the writing was on the wall, Zhang fending off a break point at 4-1 to finally extinguish any last vestiges of hope.
By The Numbers
Stephens struggled to find any rhythm and contributed to her own downfall with 27 unforced errors.
"I think today when I came out on the court with so many people watching I was a bit nervous but also knew that it would help me play well," Zhang said. "A few days ago, I said to my coach that I never played well on grass and found it difficult to move.
"But I'm learning every day how to play on grass a little bit more and hopefully I will get a few more matches to improve."