Zhang Shuai storms into Tokyo semifinals; Samsonova bests Muguruza

Two days after saves match points and withstanding a barrage of 27 aces from No.2 seed Caroline Garcia, No.28 Zhang Shuai booked her place in the semifinals with a 7-5, 6-2 win over Petra Martic. Zhang will face Liudmila Samsonova for a place in her third final of the season.

Zhang is playing Tokyo for the first time in more than a decade and is now in her third semifinal of the season. Earlier this year, Zhang captured his third career singles title in Lyon and reached the final in Birmingham. Zhang entered the fall season after a successful hard court summer season, where the 33-year-old made back-to-back quarterfinals in Cincinnati and Cleveland before making her first US Open round of 16 appearance.

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Zhang came into the quarterfinals looking for his first ever win over Martic. The Croatian had beaten her twice on hard courts. In their last match in Miami in 2019, Martic lost just three games.

Zhang was able to break the match open after Martic went 1 for 5 on break points in the first set. In contrast, Zhang only saw two break points in the opener but converted both times. From 5-5 in the first set, Zhang reeled off seven straight games before Martic got on the board at 5-1. She closed out the win on her fifth match point after 1 hour and 22 minutes.

The win is Zhang’s 34th of the season, more than double her 2021 tally of 15. She is the first Chinese player to advance to the Tokyo semifinals since Li Na in 2009.

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“Last year, a tough six months,” Zhang explained after the match. “I had an injury because in 2020 [went] back to China [twice], long quarantine after. When I started playing, I felt shoulder pain, arm pain everywhere. So last year, the first half of the year, I didn’t win any games. I didn’t play well. I took a lot of rest and treatment.

“Last year’s 15 wins were in the second half of the year. So it looks the same, every half year I have 15 wins. That feeling is good.”

No. 30 Samsonova played a clinical match to defeat former No. 1 Garbiñe Muguruza 6-4, 6-2 in the quarter-finals. From 4-4 in the first set, Samsonova took control of the match by winning four straight games to build a 6-4, 2-0 lead. She finished the match with 23 winners to Muguruza’s 11, breaking the Spaniard five times.

Samsonova has now won 16 of her last 17 matches and has reached the semifinals or better in three of her last four tournaments.

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