China’s Zhang Kai Lin advanced to the quarter-finals for the first time in more than six months on the WTA Tour when the World No 131 recorded a comprehensive 6-2, 6-4 win over Japan’s Risa Ozaki in the ALYA WTA Malaysian Open at TPC Kuala Lumpur today.
World No 106 Nao Hibino of Japan received a walkover into the last eight from 10th-ranked Elina Svitolina after the defending champion was advised to rest and recover from a left Achilles injury.
With Svitolina’s withdrawal, the tournament will see none of the top three seeded players in the quarter-finals.
Second seed Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain and third seed Caroline Garcia were ousted in the first round yesterday.
However, the progress of unseeded players gives a new dimension to the tournament new and young faces are set to make their mark.
The Wuhan-born Kai Lin broke Ozaki’s serve six times to seal victory in 104 minutes.
The 27-year-old will play either Australian Ashleigh Barty or Japan’s Miyu Kato on Friday for a spot in the semi-finals.
“It was not my best performance but I played well enough to win the match. I used by forehand a lot to pressure Ozaki,” said Kai Lin.
“I am actually slowly coming back from a left ankle injury. I am starting to get the feel of things and my game is getting better.”
Kai Lin said the absence of the top three seeded players in the quarter-finals will now give the lower-ranked players a better chance to go far.
“There are definitely chances for lower ranked players like me but I am not thinking much about it. I will prepare my matches accordingly,” Kai Lin added.
Hibino was delighted to get a free ride into the quarter-finals but disappointed that she missed the chance of taking on a top 10 player.
“Honestly, I didn’t even know that Elina withdrew…quite surprised. I think she’s tired but I am disappointed as I was hoping to play her,” said Hibino.
“I have not played since Monday but I don’t think it will affect my momentum for the quarter-finals as I am also playing doubles,” said Hibino, who won a tour title in Tashkent in 2015.
In a doubles first round match, Australia’s Ashleigh Barty-Casey Dellacqua caused an upset by overcoming third seeds Maria Irigoyen of Argentina and Paula Kania of Poland 6-4, 6-1.
“It’s always nice to be back on court with Ash. It was good to be out there and it was really good to have a first round win,” said Dellacqua
Her partner Bartyadded: “It was a really tough match today, it was tough conditions. I thought Casey and I were able to think our way through that match pretty well and we were able to use two or three dimensions of our game. It was a perfect start for us and hopefully we can keep playing well throughout the week.”
The Australians will take on Hibino and Thailand’s VaratchayaWongteanchai in the quarter-finals.
Fourth seeds Nicole Melichar of the United States and Makoto Ninomiya of Japan also won their first round match by overcoming Serbians Aleksandra Krunic and Nina Stojanovic 6-1, 6-4.