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Zhang keeps her dream alive

China Daily | Updated: 2017-06-02 08:43

Zhang keeps her dream alive

China's Zhang Shuai returns to Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich during their French Open second-round match at Roland Garros in Paris on Wednesday. Zhang won 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 to reach the last 32, her best ever run in the tournament. David Vincent Ap

China's best hope at Roland Garros tops Sasnovich to reach the last 32

PARIS - Zhang Shuai, the only Chinese woman still playing in the French Open, advanced to the last 32 with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 triumph over Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus on Wednesday.

Zhang's previous best record at Roland Garros came last year in her seventh appearance, when she lost to Australia's Samantha Stosur in the second round.

Wednesday's match was her third against Sasnovich. All three have come in Grand Slams, including Zhang's straight-sets win at the Australian Open in January.

Zhang fired four aces on Wednesday, and consistently outserved the Belarusian.

The first set was tied 2-2 before Zhang won three straight games. She then broke Sasnovich's serve to seal the 6-2 victory .

The Belarusian won the opening two games of the second set, but Zhang rebounded to win the next two before Sasnovich reeled off three in a row.

Zhang eventually regained control of the decisive set, keeping Sasnovich off balance with deep, strong forehands. On match point, Sasnovich blooped a backhand to the baseline that was ruled out by the umpire.

"Every time I play against her I need to be pretty careful, because she is quite resilient," Zhang said of Sasnovich's performance.

"I need to do my best, and move forward step by step."

As Zhang savored her victory, the Chinese duo of Peng Shuai and Duan Yingying made a successful debut as doubles partners, vanquishing Varvara Lepchenko and Evgeniya Rodina 6-1, 7-5.

Peng, a two-time Grand Slam doubles winner, said she focused on establishing a rhythm with Duan, rather than worrying about what their opponents were trying to do.

"We will just enjoy our partnership on court and try not to watch the scoreboard," she said.

Understated

Meanwhile, title rivals Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic stormed into the last 32, while defending women's champion Garbine Muguruza survived a second-round scare.

Nadal outclassed the Netherlands' Robin Haase 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 on Court Philippe Chatrier to continue his quest for an unprecedented 10th Roland Garros triumph, while defending champion Djokovic battered Portugal's Joao Sousa 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 to make it four wins in as many meetings with the world No 59.

To Nadal's extraordinary list of achievements in Paris, the nine-time Open champion might well add 'Master of Understatement'.

"I think I played a pretty good match," the Spaniard offered, almost as a question, when asked about his form in thrashing Haase.

There were few in the crowd who would disagree with that analysis - least of all Haase, who appeared shell-shocked when it was over.

"I think I did a lot of things well this afternoon," Nadal added, with almost comedic understatement.

The Spaniard hammered the ball with such force that it appeared to distort into an oval shape at times as he toyed with his opponent before finally finishing him.

The hour Nadal spent drilling forehand after forehand on the main court during a workout before fans were admitted proved to be time well spent.

"I felt I had things pretty much under control, that I could change the direction of the ball when I needed to," said the No 4 seed.

"I didn't really think about it too hard, because when you do that, you can't act anymore.

"So I tried not to think about it too much, and everything went well."

Certainly Nadal seemed to be enjoying himself under a warm Paris sun, the conditions suiting his game and giving his groundstrokes a little extra zip.

"It's true that if the sun is shining and the temperature is between 18 and 25 degrees, that is normally good for me because the ball flies and I get good bounces on my forehand, especially," the 30-year-old said.

Nadal, who next plays Georgia's Nikoloz Basilashvili, deflected any talk about his uncle Toni stepping down as his coach.

Nadal's old friend and former Roland Garros winner Carlos Moya, along with former pro Francisco Roig, will take on the full-time duties of coaching when Toni takes a back seat.

"Toni is the most important person in my career without a doubt, so a lot of things that I achieved are because he was helping me since I was three years old," Nadal said.

"I'm here to play a tennis tournament. An important event for me. I cannot be thinking about if Toni is leaving or not leaving.

"Toni will take his position. He's free to do what is good for him. I am happy that he will be involved in my tennis academy more than ever, because that's good for the kids and good for the academy.

"It is something that I'm not thinking about right now. Toni is my uncle more than my coach. He's always free to come and go, whenever he wants."

Xinhua - Reuters

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