ZHUHAI, China - No.12 seed and Chinese wildcard Zhang Shuai continued her stellar 2016 season with a 7-6(2), 6-4 victory over Timea Babos, becoming the first to advance into the semifinals at the Huajin Securities WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai.
Zhang needed to win just four games to clinch her spot in the last four, but Babos complicated that scenario to start. Racing out to a 4-1 lead, the Hungarian alternate had points for 5-2 before the Chinese star roared back to pull level.
"I knew a little bit about what I had to do," she told WTA Insider after the match. "But I didn't want to think too much about winning four or five games, because I wanted to win the match."
Holding serve for 4-4, the hard part was over.
"I wanted to make the semifinal, not just win four games. I'd played really good during the Asian Swing so I have a lot of confidence now, and I want to win every match."
Playing in front of her home crowd, the World No.27 delighted the fans packed into Zhuhai's stadium court by pulling out a thrilling first set tie-break, and recovered from another break deficit in the second to end Babos' year in just over 90 minutes.
"I'm really thankful for all of my fans, friends, parents, and sponsors. They have so many people coming to watch me and that gives me motivation. Everything feels really good because I like playing in China. It's my first time playing in Zhuhai and I've won two matches into the semifinal. I'm really happy and really excited."
? WTA (@WTA) November 3, 2016
Caroline Garcia kept her hopes of advancing alive with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Samantha Stosur, putting Stosur at 0-2 in the Azalea Group. Garcia had one of the latest starts in the event, coming from a semifinal finish at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global.
"It was good to start only today, to have some single practice and get used to the condition," she said in her post-match press conference.
"But it was also hard, because some people are already out, some are already qualifying, and you're only just starting."
From 1-4 down in the opening set, Garcia didn't look back, setting up a winner-take-all second round-robin match with top seed Johanna Konta.
"I think it was really good and solid match from me. The last singles match was not very good. It was kind of complicated. So I'm happy the way I played today and the way I came back in the first set..
"I came back strong and I was really calm all the way."