After a “what if” sort of a US Open 2017 for exciting Chinese talent Shuai Zhang, squandering a match point to Karolina Pliskova, she returns to make amends at the Japan Open.
Zhang was an unknown quantity at the last Slam of the season. This was mainly due to her withdrawal due to injury from New Haven after winning two matches, one of which was against Petra Kvitova. However, she looked in great shape dispatching Sabine Lisicki and Risa Ozaki in the first two rounds. This was promising form. Prior to this tournament, Zhang had only amassed 12 wins in 18 WTA level events this season. Then, in the 3rd round, Zhang had Pliskova reeling, earning match point in the 2nd set. Then, nerves caused Zhang to tighten up and Pliskova worked her way back into the match, and on to victory.
A Zhang Revival Could Start in the Japan Open
It’s a good strategy from the 28-year-old to get right back on court almost immediately after the Pliskova heartbreak. She was starting to find her range again, after a poor start to the season, for a player of Zhang’s calibre.
Zhang is the #2 seed and must fancy her chances of gaining a needed 2nd career WTA title. The top seed is wild card Kristina Mladenovic–who is out-of-sorts at the moment, currently on a five-match losing streak. Zhang will definitely see this tournament as a big opportunity for a deep run.
Richel Hogenkamp is up first for Zhang
An imminently winnable first round tie against Hogenkamp, who has struggled to make inroads into many WTA main draws this season, should steady any nerves for Zhang. There is no head-to-head between this pair, but the Chinese star should have too much and take another step on the road to recovery.
Home Favourite Misaki Doi is a potential 2nd Round Opponent
Zhang holds a 3-1 head-to-head over Doi, including a hard court victory. Given some of the results that happened at last week’s US Open, nothing is certain in the women’s game right now. That said, Zhang seems set for a deep run on the hard courts in Tokyo.
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