Zhang Shuai has received a wildcard into the 2018 WTA Elite Trophy amidst a tough season. The local favourite was also handed a direct entry into this elite event held in Zhuhai back in 2016, and this year Zhang would be back looking for more success after reaching the semifinals in that year.
Currently ranked 36th in the world, the Chinese has a bulk of points to defend through the off-season as she claimed a WTA 125k title and one ITF title towards the closing stages of the year last season hence points up for grab in Zhuhai are extremely important for her.
Disappointing 2018 for Zhang
It could have easily been a much better season for Zhang, who missed out on many of her opportunities throughout the year. A spectacular win over 13th seed and 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens came in the opening round of the Australian Open, and she had to wait until February for her first WTA quarterfinal appearances.
She reached the last eight in Budapest and Acapulco, a run which pushed her back into the world’s top-30. Her efforts on clay were rewarded with a semifinal finish at the J&T Banka Prague Open, where she fell to eventual champion Petra Kvitova.
Zhang struggled in the next couple of months; only managing to reach the quarterfinals at the Jiangxi Women’s Open despite being a huge favourite to claim the title. She proved that she can perform in front of a supportive crowd as Zhang once again excelled during the Asian swing.
An encouraging run to the semifinals at the Japan Women’s Open kickstarted a series of wonderful weeks for Zhang. She reached the third round in Wuhan before upsetting both Elise Mertens and world number three Angelique Kerber to reach the quarterfinals in Beijing, where she served for the match against Naomi Osaka.
She enters Zhuhai with a semifinal run in Hong Kong in her last tournament and is drawn into the same group with Anastasija Sevastova and Garbine Muguruza. It is an extremely competitive group and fans would be treated to several thrillers between them.