Breakthrough for lone ranger Zhang
She may have left Singapore five years ago for the United States, but shuttler Zhang Beiwen still has a soft spot for the Republic.
Yesterday, the 26-year-old China-born Singaporean was momentarily lost for words, after beating Japan's world No. 4 Akane Yamaguchi 21-15, 21-23, 21-19 in the OUE Singapore Open women's singles quarter-finals at the Indoor Stadium.
"I am really happy, this is the first time I will be playing in the semi-finals in the Singapore Open," said the world No. 13.
Zhang, who moved to Singapore at age 13 but fell out with then-national singles coach Luan Ching in 2011, could have won the game in straight sets yesterday, but was forced to the rubber by Yamaguchi, 19, who rallied late in the second set.
"I've beaten her before but she's really hard to play against. She could reach all my shots and I had to be really, really patient," said Zhang, who reached the quarter-finals last year.
"In the second set, I was leading by a lot and I really wanted to win so, when she caught up, I felt really nervous and couldn't win the set."
"For the third set, I just prayed that it wouldn't happen again," she added with a laugh.
Yamaguchi was gracious in defeat.
I don't have any pressure, I am always alone and by myself... and I have nothing to lose.Zhang Beiwen
She said: "The opponent was really good this time... I was a bit nervous playing against her because she could receive all my shots.
"I had no idea what to do but I kept on playing."
The last time Zhang beat Yamaguchi, the Singaporean went on to the French Open SuperSeries final last October, when she lost 21-9, 21-9 to China's He Bingjiao.
But Zhang was cautious in predicting a similar run at the Indoor Stadium, as she will meet world No. 1 Tai Tzu-ying in today's semi-finals.
Tai, 22, beat Japan's Sayaka Sato 21-14, 21-19 yesterday.
Zhang said: "It's been a long time since I've played against Tai Tzu-ying and I will just try my best.
"Every match is important to me because I don't have much training, so every match I have to be very focused as I don't have many chances to play against the world's top 10 players," added Zhang, who does not have a coach and works part-time as one.
"But I don't have any pressure, I am always alone and by myself... and I have nothing to lose." - LIM SAY HENG