Australian Open: Alison Riske fights past resilient Shuai Zhang

Australian Open: Alison Riske fights past resilient Shuai Zhang

Despite a spirited fight back from the Chinese, Alison Riske overcame the 20th seed to advance to the third round.

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Pavitra Ganesan

Shuai Zhang took to the court for her second round against Alison Riske. The pair has met a few times before and in their most recent meeting, it was the 20th seed who won. This time round it was another tough three sets. Riske who had a comfortable lead in the first set saw it slip away as Zhang fought back to force a tiebreak. The Chinese could not convert her chances as Riske edge the first set. Zhang was not done yet and force a decider but Riske eventually came out tops knocking out the 20th seed 7-6(9), 4-6, 6-1.

Zhang fights back but squanders her chances

It was a poor start by the 20th seed which Riske capitalized well to earn an immediate break and lead. Zhang was firing more errors than winners and soon trailed by a double break. The Chinese eventually shook off the slow start to snatch one of the breaks back and held her service game to reduce the deficit to just one game.

Riske found herself a game away from taking the first set but Zhang had other ideas. The Chinese increased her aggressive play and earned break points after a forehand down the line winner. The American overcooked her shot allowing the Zhang to level the set before taking the lead for the first time in the set for 6-5. The American pushed the disappointment aside and came up with a solid love hold to bring the set to a tiebreak.

Zhang digs deep to get back on level terms | Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images
Zhang digs deep to get back on level terms | Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Zhang took the lead in the tiebreak as Riske increasingly grew frustrated. The Chinese carved out a couple of set points at 6-4 but the American held her nerves and served well to save the first of those. Zhang had the opportunity to serve out the set but she sent her shot long as the tiebreak was level at 6-6. The Chinese had a third set point and once again the American was calm under pressure to fend it off before setting up a set point of her own. Zhang, however, could not follow suit in saving it allowing Riske to take the tight first set 7-6(7).

Riske grabs a tight first set | Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images
Riske grabs a tight first set | Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Zhang comes from behind to force a decider

Like in the first set, Riske once again got the early break for a 2-0 lead. However, that lead barely lasted as Zhang broke right back to get back on serve for 2-2. Both players started creating chances as they exchanged breaks once more. At 4-4, the Chinese just found the extra edge to get the crucial break after capitalizing on the first opportunity she had. Zhang remained composed to serve and grabbed the second set 6-4 to force the third.

Zhang roars her way into the third set | Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images
Zhang roars her way into the third set | Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Riske bounces back strongly as Zhang fades away

After fighting so hard to force the third, the Chinese made a slow start to the third yet again trailing by an early break. The American was growing in strength and almost raced out to a 4-0 lead if not for Zhang fighting hard in a mammoth game to having to fend off a couple of break points to get on board for 1-3.

Riske finds her range again | Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images
Riske finds her range again | Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

It was, however, too little too late for the 20th seed as Riske rode the momentum to find a late break to extend her lead to 5-1. The American set up triple match points and even then the Chinese was fighting but could not defend the third as Riske went on to seal the victory after two hours and 45 minutes.

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