Seeded for the first time at a slam, Shuai Zhang opened her Australian Open campaign against qualifier Aliaksandra Sasnovich. It was here in Melbourne Park, a year ago, that the Chinese notched her first main draw win at a Grand Slam which made her change her mind on retirement and ignited her resurgence up the rankings. Last year’s quarter-finalist was looking to back that up with a good start. Sasnovich, on the other hand, playing for the second time here was looking to cause an upset.
Zhang, a picture of focus, was full of purpose delivering a first set bagel to the Belarusian. Sasnovich barely had things going for her and her serve let her down multiple times. She did manage to get herself on the board in the second set but the Chinese was too strong, needing just 51 minutes to complete a 6-0, 6-3 victory.
Zhang powers her way through
Zhang made a great start to the match ripping winners and benefitting from a couple of double faults to get an early break for 2-0. The Chinese then doubled her lead when Sasnovich struggled to hold serve succumbing yet again with an unfortunate double fault. Zhang was barely putting a foot wrong consolidating the double break with ease for a staggering 5-0 lead.
Forced to serve to stay in the set, the Belarusian did herself no favors with yet another double fault gifting Zhang a couple of set points. Sasnovich tried to fight but was only able to save one of them as she conceded a first set bagel in 21 minutes.
Sasnovich gets herself on board but Zhang proves too strong
The 20th seed started the second set where she left off winning her seventh straight game with a comfortable service hold. Sasnovich finally got herself on the board holding serve for the first time in the match to level for 1-1. However, she was still not able to make any headway on Zhang’s serve as the Chinese held to love.
The double faults though were back to haunt the Belarusian handing Zhang a chance to take the lead. Sasnovich however, came up with with a well-executed drop shot to evade the danger. Alas, subsequent errors eventually cost her and it gave Zhang the break in the second set.
The Chinese pulled away to a 4-1 lead and it was looking grim for the Belarusian. Sasnovich, however, did hold on to her serve to keep herself in the set despite pressure from Zhang. The qualifier held serve one more time to force the Chinese to serve it out. And Zhang did so with ease booking her spot in the second round.