No.87 Zhu Lin earned the first Top 10 win of her career, defeating No.6 seed Maria Sakkari 7-6(3), 1-6, 6-4 to advance to her first Round of 16 at a Slam. With her tricky backhand and physical defense, Zhu kept Sakkari under pressure throughout the 2-hour and 33-minute win.
Alongside Naomi Osaka, Ons Jabeur and Caroline Garcia, Zhu was a participant in the WTA Rising Stars showcase at the 2015 WTA Finals in Singapore. A talented young player who struggled with injuries in her transition to the main tour, Zhu has shown signs of a surge in quality over the past six months.
"There was a lot up and downs," Zhu said in press. "Even sometimes I think about maybe I'm not good enough for tennis. I think about retire sometimes.
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"But my family, my friends, they always talk to me. They believe I can be a better player, so they pushing me every day to become a better person. So I'm really appreciating."
On Saturday night, Zhu proved relentless as she unwound Sakkari's baseline game. Sakkari struggled to hit freely and Zhu took advantage, generating 15 break points in the match. She fired 29 winners to 38 unforced errors, compared to Sakkari's 42 winners and 52 unforced errors.
After splitting the opening sets, Zhu earned the early break in the third set before Sakkari pegged her back and leveled the set at 4-4. But on her 15th and final break point of the match, Zhu defended bravely and retook control of Sakkari rally with a perfectly placed lob that earned an error and gave her a chance to serve out the win.
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"I just keep telling myself, it's just one break and then I need to put more for serving and be aggressive, trust myself," Zhu said. "That's all I tell myself, and be relaxed. Enjoy the stadium. Enjoy the crowd."
Afterward, Sakkari was disappointed in her performance.
"I think that my level was not good at all," she said. "I started the match by being very defensive and very, like, not hitting the ball, just being scared of playing my game.
"You know, the other girl, she had basically nothing to lose. She was playing free. She was enjoying herself. She was playing very, very good."
"I mean honestly, am I in a dream?"— wta (@WTA) January 20, 2023
"I have to believe in myself that I have the ability to be able to play at this high level. Who knows what's going to happen? You never know."
Zhu | #AusOpen pic.twitter.com/Kg5yq1j6sY
Sakkari also noted that Zhu played an exceptionally clean match.
"I've seen her on the tour," Sakkari said. "I've never seen her playing that well, to be honest. Of course, beating Jil in the round up before, and I didn't remember her moving that well as she did today."
Zhu will next play Victoria Azarenka, who came back from a one-set deficit to knock off Madison Keys.