Second seed Zhang Shuai created history by becoming the first player from China to reach the singles semi-finals of the BMW Malaysia Open at Royal Selangor Golf Club (RSGC) in Kuala Lumpur today.
With temperatures surpassing 31degrees Celsius, Zhang Shuai struggled in the 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 win over Poland’s World No 124 Magda Linette in a tense two-hour quarter-final battle on centre court. She faces 17-year-old Donna Vekic of Croatia in the semi-finals tomorrow. Donna, the World 95, defeated Austria’s Patricia Mayr-Achleitner 6-4, 7-5. World No 45 Zhang Shuai broke Magda’s serve twice in the first set to close the match. Despite leading 2-1 in the second set, the China ace struggled and lost the next five games.
In the third set, Magda, ranked fourth in Poland and in her first quarter-finals appearance on the WTA Tour, broke Zhang Shuai’s serve in the opening game. But Zhang Shuai broke back and won the next five games to seal victory. It will be Zhang Shuai second semi-finals appearance on the tour this season after Acapulco. Zhang Shuai, who won her first tour title last year in Guangzhou, was emotional during an interview on centre court.
“I played well in the first and third sets. I must thank the fans for motivating me to win today,” said Zhang Shuai, who was close to tears, today.
“It was my second consecutive match in the afternoon and the heat affected my game in the second set. The short break before the third set however helped me regain energy.I was emotional after winning because it was a good feeling as after Acapulco I couldn’t train for one month due to a shoulder injury.
“I had to retire during the first set in the semi-finals against Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova due to injury. I was depressed then but my coach and fitness trainer motivated me and I regained confidence.”
As for tomorrow’s semi-finals, Zhang Shuai said: “I hope my match is scheduled in the evening as I’ve played back-to-back afternoon matches but it is unlikely at the top half quarter-finalists are playing late today.”
Donna, the seventh seed, hit 10 aces and broke Patricia’s serve four times to make her first tour semi-finals since June last year. “It is nice to end the match with an ace especially with the heat here, you just want to win your matches quickly,” Donna.