NANCHANG, China – Peng Shuai dug deep in steamy conditions to defeat No.8 seed Kristyna Pliskova, 6-3, 0-6, 6-4 at the Jiangxi Open in one hour, 49 minutes.

The former WTA World No.16 had not beaten a Top 100 player during the 2019 season, which began with a retirement against the Czech in the third set of their clash in Shenzhen in late December.

Peng, however, spent the duration of the opening set in the driving seat before falling away dramatically in the second. She successfully rallied in the decider to score a fine victory in sweltering weather.

During the first set, the Chinese player was conservative, playing in a tight style, taking few chances and allowing her opponent to make mistakes. Nevertheless, with Pliskova hitting 10 winners and as many unforced errors, the margins were fine.

Peng proved to be highly efficient on break points, claiming two of the three she fashioned, while her opponent critically misfired when she had a chance to salvage the set at 5-3. The WTA World No.132 pounced, taking three successive points to move ahead.

Simply playing containing tennis, though, was insufficient to prevent a whirlwind of winners coming from Pliskova’s racquet in the second set. The WTA World No.81 crunched 20 winners during these six games, which she reeled off virtually unchallenged until being made to fight to secure the bagel.

The deciding set proved a repeat of the first, with the players matching each other virtually stride for stride. 

Pliskova looked the women likeliest to make the breakthrough as she fashioned break chances in both the sixth and eighth game, but at 4-4 she looked the wearier in the oppressive heat.

A slight lapse opened the door for Peng, which she took emphatically, breaking then forging ahead 40-0 when serving out the match. Although her first two opportunities were missed, a forehand winner off a half-court pop up sent her through to face Zhu Lin in the quarterfinals, despite winning six points fewer than her rival.

Zhu had a contrasting passage through to the last eight as she led No.1 seed Zhang Shuai, 6-0, 1-0, before the WTA World No.32 was forced to withdraw due to illness after only 39 minutes on court.

That leaves Elena Rybakina as the highest-ranked player in the top half of the draw after she defeated Xinyu Wang in straight sets. The No.4 seed will face Viktorija Golubic in the quarters.

In Thursday’s other second-round match, Nina Stojanovic defeated Samantha Stosur, 6-4, 6-3 to seal her passage through in 87 minutes.