Zhang poised to challenge the best

Updated: 2016-11-01 07:45

By Xu Jingxi in Zhuhai(China Daily)

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Zhang poised to challenge the best

China's Zhang Shuai celebrates after defeating Alison Riske of the US during China Open Women's Singles Second Round in Beijing, October 4, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]

Chinese star Zhang Shuai is challenging the world's top players at the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai, the Tour's year-end event, which runs through Sunday in the Guangdong city.

The 27-year-old Zhang has had a career-best season. At January's Australian Open she grabbed her first match victory in a Grand Slam tournament after 14 failed attempts and made it all the way to the quarterfinals after upsetting then world No 2 Simona Halep.

Zhang maintained her good form en route to capturing her first career main-draw singles victory in New York after earning her 10th trip to the US Open in August.

"I'm so happy to see myself be competitive in major tournaments and to have many opportunities to challenge and defeat the world's top 20 and even the top 10," Zhang told China Daily.

A wild card entry at Zhuhai, Zhang, currently ranked No 28 in the world, will be up against Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro (No 11) and Switzerland's Timea Bacsinszky (No 18) in the round-robin group stage at the second edition of the tournament.

"I have played against both of those rivals in the past three months, so we will see what progress we've made through this tournament in Zhuhai," Zhang said.

"I really enjoy playing against top players, from whom I can learn a lot, and it is very special for me to play matches in my home country."

With a home court advantage, Zhang has a chance to make it to the semifinals, given that she defeated Bacsinszky at the Rio Olympics and pushed Suarez Navarro to the limit in their most recent match.

Zhang avoided an early match against Johanna Konta, the top seed in Zhuhai. The Briton has defeated her three times in a row this year.

Meanwhile, two-time Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova had a difficult first half of the season after splitting with her long-time coach and a breaking up with her fiance, but she has been steadily improving since the Rio Olympics.

China seems to be a favorite destination for the Czech star, who ended a 13-month absence from WTA championships by winning last month's Wuhan Open.

Seeded third in Zhuhai, Kvitova faces tough rivals in the group stage - 2015 US Open finalist Roberta Vinci and fellow Czech star Barbora Strycova.

But Kvitova expects a better season next year.

"I don't really see anything that can be worse than this season," she told China Daily. "I need to find a good coach for next season. We will work hard again. I have motivation, so I'm looking forward to it."


 Zhang poised to challenge the best

Zhang Shuai carries China's hopes against some of the world's best players at this week's WTA Elite Trophy tournament in Zhuhai.