INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA - Chinese qualifier Peng Shuai turned the tables on one of the most cerebral players in the game, using all the variety in her arsenal to upset No.6 Agnieszka Radwanska in straight sets at the BNP Paribas Open, 6-4, 6-4.
Peng came into the matchup with two wins over the World No.6, and needed an hour and twenty-six minutes to score another one, defeating Radwanska 6-4, 6-4 in her first Top 10 win since 2014.
"She's a really good player and we've faced each other many times - sometimes I win, sometimes I lose, but I'm really happy I won today," Peng said in her on-court interview.
"I'm really happy that I can come back and play this tournament again - after my back surgery [in 2015] I almost ended my career. But I spent a lot of time and fight hard to be here."
The Chinese player had a long road to the third round; she made it through two rounds of qualifying to reach the main draw, then dispatched Lesia Tsurenko and ousted No.31 seed Ana Konjuh to bring up the matchup with Radwanska. She racked up a total of six hours and 20 minutes on court; Radwanska, by contrast, had spent just one hour and 43 minutes.
That battle-readiness showed for Peng as she kept pace with the 2014 finalist, trading breaks twice in the opening set. Peng gave Radwanska a taste of her own medicine, changing the pace and bringing out the variety that Radwanska herself is usually known for and drawing out the errors.
The pair wrestled with the momentum for much of the opening set before a late wobble from Radwanska gave Peng the opening. Radwanska's first serves abandoned her at the worst time, and Peng broke to take the set.
She jumped out ahead to a 5-2 lead before Radwanska regained her footing; the Chinese player was a point away from bringing up match point on Radwanska's serve when a netcord point breathed new life into the Pole's game. She found her range to cut down on Peng's lead, but it was too little too late as Peng broke again to take her spot into the BNP Paribas Open round of 16.
Peng will take on Venus Williams in the next round for a spot in the quarterfinals. She won the pair's most recent encounter last year, beating the former World No.1 in straight sets at the China Open.
"I remember our last match in Beijing," Peng said. "I had been back on the tour [from back injury] for half a year and then I beat her at the China Open.
"She's an amazing player, so I just hope to keep going and try to fight and play some good tennis next round."