ROME, Italy - Reigning French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko showed off her dangerous clay court form, weathering a late wobble to knock out Zhang Shuai 6-2, 7-5 to move into the Internazionali BNL d’Italia second round.
There was nothing Zhang could do in the opening set, which saw Ostapenko grab back-to-back breaks to open up a 4-0 lead. The Chinese player wrestled one of the breaks back late in the set, but Ostapenko barreled on to close things out.
Ostapenko opened the second set with a break as well, getting ahead 1-0, but things quickly got a bit more complicated than the No.5 seed was bargaining for as Zhang finally found her footing in the match. She was broken at 4-4, but recovered emphatically to reel off three games in a row and finish off the match with two aces in the final game.
Needing just one hour and 10 minutes, Ostapenko’s powerful attacking game smothered Zhang, who only hit 10 winners to the Latvian’s 27 - that ratio was even more one-sided in the opening set, when Zhang struck just 1 winner against 10.
The victory improves Ostapenko’s clay court record to 11 victories in her last 13 matches, dating back to the 2017 season. It’s an incredible turnaround from one year ago, when the Latvian had to play qualifying rounds to reach the main draw in Rome before going on to lift her maiden Grand Slam title at Roland Garros.
Up next, Ostapenko will play the winner between the unseeded Johanna Konta and qualifier Hsieh Su-Wei for a spot in the quarterfinals.