WTA Indian Wells: Zhang Shuai Stuns Caroline Wozniacki To Reach Third Round In Roller Coaster
Photo courtesy: News CN

Chinese wildcard Zhang Shuai sent former world number one and 2011 Indian Wells champion Caroline Wozniacki packing in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open. Zhang won the rollercoaster match 4-6, 7-6, 7-5 in three hours and twenty four minutes, the longest WTA match of the year so far, a marathon in the California desert.

Wozniacki Fights Through Close First Set

Zhang began the set holding serve in to thirty to go up 1-0. In an early microcosm of the match, Wozniacki held in a lengthy deuce game, after saving two break points to hold for 1-1. Zhang and Wozniacki each held for 2-2, before the Dane broke easily for 3-2. The Chinese responded immediately, breaking back for 3-3, showing her fighting attitude early on. The world number 69 held in another lengthy deuce game, a common theme of the match. Wozniacki fought off six break points in the ensuing game, to hold finally after 5 deuces, with almost every game going to over two deuces. In the easiest game of the match so far, the 2011 Indian Wells champion broke Zhang at love to put herself in prime position to take the opening set. Wozniacki served out the set in relatively easy fashion, taking the set on her first chance, 6-4. 

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Wozniacki reacts after winning a point. Getty Images

Zhang Edges Wozniacki Out In Rollercoaster Second Set

The former world number one showed her intentions early on in the second, breaking immediately for a 1-0 lead. The Chinese broke back on her second break chance, leveling the set at one game a piece. Wozniacki kept up her aggressive returning, breaking Zhang again for 2-1. The world number 69 put on a big hitting clinic in the next return game, breaking the Dane emphatically to love. The two-time US Open finalist broke back again, for the fifth straight break of the set, taking the game on her fourth break chance in another extremely lengthy game, the story of the second set and the match. Wozniacki captured the first hold of the set, taking the game with only deuce to go up 4-2. Zhang responded well to the first hold of the set, holding herself in another deuce game for 4-3. The Chinese broke again for 4-4, taking the game on her second break chance. Zhang then held a crucial game to go up 5-4, putting the pressure on her Danish opponent to hold to stay in the set. Wozniacki did just that, holding easily for 5-5, with the business end of the set in full swing now. The Australian Open quarterfinalist held easily for 6-5, again putting the pressure on the Dane, with Wozniacki coming up with the goods when it counts, saving a set point to hold for a tiebreak. 

The tiebreak began in routine fashion, with Zhang and Wozniacki each holding their first service points, before the Chinese got the mini break on Wozniacki to go up 2-1. With the madness of the tiebreak just beginning, the Dane broke Zhang on both her service points to go up a mini-break 3-2. The rollercoaster second set rolled on, with the world number 69 taking both of Wozniacki's service points, with Zhang now going up 4-3. The Chinese then held both her service points to go up 6-3, bringing up three set points for the wildcard. With the pressure on Wozniacki to serve to stay in the set, the Dane responded like the champion she is, holding both her service points in gutsy fashion, winning two grueling, long rallies, eventually drawing the error from the winded Zhang.

With another set point, Zhang dropped her serve to level the breaker at 6-6, and put the Dane two points from victory. The Chinese held her nerve, getting to 7-6, bringing up another set point. Wozniacki kept up the resistance, holding both her service points to bring up a match point for the Dane at 8-7. The Chinese fought on, holding for 8-8, before holding another service point for 9-8, bringing up her fifth set point. At 9-8, Zhang played a beautiful return point, blasting an overhead, causing a loud "Come on" from Zhang as she took the second set. Zhang's celebration prompted Wozniacki to complain to chair umpire Felix Torralba, believing the Chinese broke the intentional hindrance rule, with Wozniacki saying Zhang yelled "cmon" before the point was over. The former world number one referenced the 2011 US Open final, where Serena Williams was cited for an intentional hindrance against Samantha Stosur, also on a crucial point. Torralba did not believe Zhang yelled out during the point, and Zhang took the second set 7-6, to force a third. 

Zhang Claws Her Way Back To Shock Wozniacki

Wozniacki began the set holding with relative ease to go up 1-0. The former world number one then gained the first break of the set, taking the game on her second break chance. Zhang then broke back, bringing the set back on serve at 2-1. The Dane then broke again, going up 3-1, before both players traded holds for 4-2. With Wozniacki in the ascendancy, Zhang gained a crucial break to lessen the gap to 4-3. Both players again held serve with the 2011 Indian Wells champion up 5-4, a game from  victory. With Zhang serving to stay in the match, the Chinese came up with the goods, holding to love to level the set at 5-5. Zhang then played a terrific return game, with the world number 69 breaking for 6-5, a game from victory. With Zhang serving for the match, the Chinese wildcard made no mistake, claiming a huge scalp on her fourth match point to send the former world number one packing. 

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Zhang with one of her forehands/Getty Images

Zhang Discusses The Match

"So excited, so tough match," Zhang said after the match. "Any time everybody play against her, always tough to win because she's very strong mentally and very good at defense."

"She was a big challenge to me because I was not really aggressive, not really stronger. But I have to be stronger if I want to win," added the wildcard.

Zhang Behind The Numbers

The Chinese made an impressive amount of first serves, making 75 percent of first serves. Zhang's serve winning percentage was low throughout, due to the constant breaks in the match, a whopping 14 total breaks in the match. Zhang only won 59 percent of first serve points and an extremely low 36% of second serve points. 

On the other side, Wozniacki made 60 percent of first serves, and also won 60 percent of first serve points. The Dane won barely more second serve points than Zhang, 39 percent. With both players seemingly struggling on serve, their return games were key and Zhang was much more efficient on return, the key to her win. Zhang won only three more points than Wozniacki, 135 for Zhang to 132 for the 2011 Indian Wells champion, showing the extreme closeness of the match, with Zhang just too good on the big points.

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Wozniacki reacts after the match/Getty Images

Up Next For Zhang

Up next for the Chinese wildcard is Belarusian 13th seed Victoria Azarenka. Azarenka cruised past Zarina Diyas 6-3, 6-2 to reach the third round meeting with Zhang. Zhang and Azarenka have never met, but the two time Australian Open champion's power should see her through to the round of sixteen in the California desert.