Chinese No.1 Zheng Qinwen thrilled her compatriot crowds at the Huafa Technology WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai on Tuesday night with a gritty 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-4 victory over Donna Vekic in the Orchid Group's first round-robin match.

No.7 seed Zheng had to fight back from a break down in the final set before edging past 10th-seeded Vekic in a grueling 2-hour and 53-minute thriller. Zheng avenged a loss to Croatia's Vekic in their only prior meeting, in the first round of 2021 Courmayeur.

"It took some time to find my rhythm," Zheng said after her win. "In the second set, she was serving really well, so we couldn’t break each other. ... I think I got a little chance at 6-6 [in the tiebreak, but] at that moment she played aggressive.

"In the third set, she continued serving really well, but after I started to get more rhythm on the return, I started to feel better and better in my game by playing longer. So I’m really happy to win the match in the end."

The victory continues 21-year-old Zheng's late-season surge. She won the second and highest-level title of her career at WTA 500 Zhengzhou earlier this month, and she currently sits at her career-high ranking of No.18.

The two Chinese players in this year's Zhuhai singles field are now 2-0 in night matches at the WTA Elite Trophy so far. Wild card Zhu Lin upset Veronika Kudermetova in Monday's night session.

On Tuesday night, Zheng had 40 winners to Vekic's 28, and Zheng also had seven fewer errors than the Croatian. Zheng let 12 of her 17 break points go begging in the clash, but her five service breaks overall still outpaced Vekic's three.

Overpowering serves and service returns led Zheng through a streaky opening set. There were five straight breaks from 2-2 to 5-4, but Zheng found some of her strongest deliveries to stop that run and serve out the first set.

The second set was a different story, with zero service breaks as World No.24 Vekic tightened up her game. In the tiebreak, Vekic used a big backhand to line up her second set point at 7-6, which she converted by forcing another error, this time from her forehand wing.

In the third set, Vekic broke for 2-1 with a sturdy return, and she consolidated for 3-1 to edge closer to the victory. But Zheng held a total of six break points in Vekic's next two service games, and the Chinese player eventually broke back for 4-4 with powerful play.

A passing winner gave Zheng a 5-4 lead, and she quickly raced to 0-40 and triple match point in the following game. Vekic saved the first two match points, but the Croatian fired a backhand miscue on the third to cede the engrossing match to Zheng.