BEIJING, China - World No.36 Zhang Shuai thrilled Chinese fans with a dominant upset over the No.4 seed Simona Halep to become the first Chinese woman to reach the quarterfinals of the China Open since Li Na in 2013.
In a rematch of their Australian Open encounter - where Zhang shocked Halep in the first round on her way to her Cinderella run to the quarterfinals - Zhang similarly seemed to have all the answers against her No.5-ranked opponent. Undaunted by playing in front of her home crowd, she needed just 58 minutes to advance 6-0, 6-3.
"I feel I played much more better today than in Australia Open because I have more confidence," Zhang said after the match. "Especially because we are in the China Open, my favorite tournament, so I'm really happy."
The key to Zhang's victory was keeping Halep out of position, leaving the Romanian always a step behind in rallies. As a result Halep struck twelve winners but 23 unforced errors, compared to Zhang's neat and tidy nine winners and just three unforced errors. Halep's serve also put her in trouble - she hit six double faults during the match.
For Zhang, the win brings together a full circle moment; at this stage last year, a No.191-ranked Zhang considered retiring from tennis after losing in the first round. Her family convinced her to play one last tournament, the Australian Open, and the rest has been a steady rise to the top.
"Last year I was feeling really down. I was feeling really sad. I felt I was working hard but never won, never play good, never play well," Zhang reflected.
"This year everything change. I am feeling much more confident on court. When I want to go cross-court, the ball go cross-court. When I want to go down the line, they go down the line. I can control everything on court.
"I [am] feeling everything working, yeah. Feeling good. I like this tennis."
? WTA (@WTA) October 6, 2016