French
Open: Zhang Shuai sees off local Alizé Cornet in second round 
Zhang Shuai, China''s second-ranked player, is through to the third round at the French Open for the second time in her career. Photo: Thomas Samson.

Day 5 action at the French Open saw French number four Alizé Cornet take on Chinese number two Zhang Shuai, in what was their third encounter at the Grand Slams. Zhang, who had taken out the 12th seed Madison Keys in the first round, handing the American her first such loss at this stage of competition since 2014 at this very same event, continued her winning ways as she moved past Cornet in straight sets to move in to the last 32 in Paris for the second time in her career.

Zhang records early break to winning first set

Both players opened the match with by trading breaks of serve. The next game saw Cornet hold to fifteen, and then came up with a break point opportunity on Zhang's serve. However, the Chinese player denied the Frenchwoman the break with a winner of her own, en route to her first service hold of the match.

The following game proved crucial with Cornet set to hold serve only for Zhang to put away her game point with a winner. A double fault off the Cornet racket next pretty much undid her chances in the set, giving her opponent a break point, which the latter duly converted.

Zhang would then hold serve to love, and this pretty much saw the Frenchwoman’s chances of a comeback dissipate. The decisive break lead in favour of the Chinese player would see her take the opening set 6-4 after 52 minutes of play.

Cornet lost, but went down without a fight, even outnumbering her opponent in the winners department. Photo:
Cornet lost, but went down without a fight, even outnumbering her opponent in the winners department. Photo: Shaun Botterill.

Cornet fights on but Zhang slams door shut in tiebreak

The second set was not as straightforward as the first, both players totalling eight breaks of serve, four apiece, with Zhang converting all four of such opportunities. The set, like the previous one, began with an exchange of service breaks, and a sense of stability looked to have finally settled in the match with the pair holding serve in each of their next two service games, none of them going to deuce.

Zhang attacked the Cornet serve once more in the seventh game as two double faults from the Frenchwoman proved costly, with the Chinese player sealing the break on her first try. A further two breaks of serve, however, ensued but this time, with Zhang a game away from the win at 5-4. Cornet was not giving up any time soon as she produced three winners in the following game to break right back.

The match would eventually progress to a tiebreak, after another exchange of service breaks, this time Cornet having need to save four match points with Zhang served for the win at 6-5. The tiebreak was tight early on, before Zhang stormed through the final four points to take the match 6-4, 7-6(3) with the match six minutes shy of hitting the two-hour mark.

Cornet served up the sole ace of the entire contest, but it was coupled with six double faults while Zhang managed just two. The Chinese woman also had a productive day at the net, winning 17 out of 22 points there. She was also successful in six of overall seven break point chances, and produced a higher percentage of first serves than her opponent (65 to 56).

On the other hand, it was Cornet who fared better in winning points on first delivery (60% to 50%). The Frenchwoman also hit one more winner than her opponent, 22 to 21, but that also came with two more unforced errors than Zhang’s 32. The pair also finished with a near-equal total of points won, 75 for Cornet and 77 for Zhang.

Zhang is now two wins away from a third Grand Slam quarterfinal, her first on clay. Photo: Thomas Samson.
Zhang is now two wins away from a third Grand Slam quarterfinal, her first on clay. Photo: Thomas Samson.

Up next

As Zhang eyes a spot in the second week of Paris for the first time in her career, she must first face another French player in wildcard Clara Burel, who defeated Slovenian Kaja Juvan in the previous round.

A place in the last 16, should Zhang win that match, would see the Chinese player go up against one of seventh seed Petra Kvitova or youngster Leylah Fernandez for a place in her third Grand Slam quarterfinal.

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