GUANGZHOU, China - No.2 seed Zhang Shuai is back into the Guangzhou Open final after a tough battle against Evgeniya Rodina. She’ll face 24-year-old Aleksandra Krunic in the final.
After breezing into the semifinals having only lost three games in total, Zhang faced her first big challenge of the tournament against Rodina, battling through 7-6(7), 6-3.
“It’s definitely the most difficult match of my tournament so far,” Zhang admitted afterwards. “I think in Guangzhou I always play well and I like to play here, but it’s always so hot and humid which made the match even more difficult for me.
“Today it was a very tough match, but I’m so happy I won.”
Rodina held four set points total in the first rollercoaster opening set which featured six breaks of serve - two set points coming on her own serve at 6-5, and two more in the tense tiebreak. Zhang managed to hold on each time and later and converted on her first and only set point to close out the tiebreak.
The second set was much more comfortable for Zhang, who started with a 4-0, double break lead. Things got a bit complicated as Rodina got a break back late in the set and pushed Zhang to 30-30 as she tried to serve to stay in the match - but the Chinese player fought through and made her way to the final after a hard-fought hour and 44 minute battle.
With the win, the 2013 Guangzhou champion is back into the final for a second time.
“I think I have a lot of confidence because I won a few years ago here in Guangzhou,” she said. “I’m always happy when I can play in China, and in Guangzhou a lot of friends come and watch me.
“I’m feeling really relaxed, there’s a lot of good food here in Guangzhou! It makes me happy.”
Zhang will face Krunic in the Guangzhou final, after the Serbian took down Yanina Wickmayer 6-3, 6-3. Krunic is through to her first WTA-level final after winning the WTA 125K Series Event in Bol earlier in the season.
“I was going into this match knowing that me and Yanina have shared some quite tough and long matches in the past - including our last match in Fed Cup,” Krunic said in her post-match press conference.
“I respect her greatly as a person and as a player - know she’s a huge fighter. I had to be focused in every moment knowing that she can switch her strategy at any moment. It was about whose effort would work better, because we both gave our all.”
While the score in Krunic’s match looks much more straightforward than Zhang’s semifinal battle, her road to the final was by no means easier.
After notching a solid first set where she broke Wickmayer twice and didn’t face a single break point, she weathered a fierce tug-of-war in the second to emerge with the advantage after five breaks of serve before serving out the match at love.
“The conditions are very tough here, and it’s the end of the season and we’re all tired. I’m glad I managed to be as fresh as possible and pull out the win. I’m happy with how I played and how I broke her rhythm. I think it was my day today.”