Tennis

Zhang sends world No. 2 Halep packing

With parents watching, Chinese knocks out world No. 2 Halep

It looked as if British No. 1 Johanna Konta's name would be on everyone's lips after her shock 6-4, 6-2 win over world No. 10 Venus Williams in the first round of the Australian Open yesterday.

But up stepped Zhang Shuai.

Watched by her parents for the first time, the 133rd-ranked Zhang, 27, scored the biggest upset of the Australian Open so far, stunning world No. 2 Simona Halep 6-4, 6-3 to reach the second round.

The Chinese giant-killer later revealed she almost retired last year as her career nose-dived, but decided to try her luck at one more Grand Slam - a decision that paid dividends.

It removed a huge monkey from her back, having lost in the first round at all 14 Grand Slam matches she had played before - the worst record of any top-300 player.

Once ranked 30 in the world, her serial failure at Grand Slams and a horror 2015 in which she fell eight times in the first round and six times in qualifying convinced her it was time to call it quits.

But her team told her to give it one more shot at Melbourne Park this year.

NEARLY RETIRED

"The last few months I'm already 200, my ranking, so it was very tough. I was feeling very sad every day, I almost retired," she said.

"But, you know, so many people help me - my coach, my parents, my team, also national team, my sponsor, always try to help me, give me more motivation.

"I didn't think in two months I can beat the top-two player. It feels like a dream come true."

Zhang, who endeared herself to the crowd during the on-court interview as she wept freely, said she seriously considered quitting after yet another flop at the US Open in September.

"I was feeling so sad, I couldn't win one match even. But I'm feeling 'No, I want to come back. I want try one more time, only one more time'.

"I say, 'Okay, I will try a last tournament - Australian Open'. If Australian Open not good, maybe finish tennis.

"But I never think I can win here, win the first round."

The upset was even sweeter as Zhang had her parents in the crowd for the first time.

She wanted them to come for what she was sure would be her last game in Melbourne.

"Before, my father never come to watch me play, this is first time he travels with me. And also my mum," she said.

"I wanted them to come to see the last 20 years what I do. This is my life for like 20 years. They never see. So I wanted them feeling what I'm doing.

"So, yeah, this is so lucky my parents have come and I win."

- AFP.

WOMEN’S SINGLES, ROUND-1 SELECTED RESULTS

  • 14-Victoria Azarenka (Belarus) beat Alison van Uytvanck (Belgium) 6-0, 6-0
  • 7-Angelique Kerber (Germany) beat Misaki Doi (Japan) 6-7(4), 7-6(6), 6-3
  • 20-Ana Ivanovic (Serbia) beat Tammi Patterson (Australia) 6-2, 6-3
  • 3-Garbine Muguruza (Spain) beat Anett Kontaveit (Estonia) 6-0, 6-4
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