Zhang saves match point to stun Garcia in Tokyo thriller

Zhang saves match point to stun Garcia in Tokyo thriller

No.28 Zhang Shuai saved match point to oust No.2 seed Caroline Garcia 4-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(5) to advance to the quarterfinals of the Toray Pan Pacific Open. The victory was Zhang’s second Top 10 win of the season and handed Garcia just her second loss in her last 15 matches.

Zhang will face either No.6 seed Karolina Pliskova or Petra Martic next.

Garcia sets the new season-best mark for aces: Already the tour’s leader in aces this season, Garcia hit 27 aces to set the new mark for most aces in a match this year. The previous mark was 21 aces, set by Zheng Qinwen against Jelena Ostapenko at the US Open.

Playing with the confidence earned over her outstanding summer hard-court season, Garcia fired 27 winners in the opening set to seal it after 40 minutes.

How the match was won: The second set saw a quick turnaround from Zhang, who won 11 of the first 15 points to build a 3-0 lead. Garcia struggled to rediscover the range that pocketed her the first set, but the Frenchwoman continued to battle through and play aggressively. She broke Zhang to get the set back on serve at 5-4 but Zhang rallied from an early mini-break deficit to seal the set on her third set point.

With the help of a quick sandwich break after the second set, Zhang got back to business in the third. Both women held their serves with clinical precision in the third set. The first break point of the set was a match point for Garcia, which Zhang saved with a big first serve on her way to leveling the score at 5-5.

In the deciding tiebreak, Garcia once again failed to hold on to an early mini-break. Zhang saved her best for the point of the match at 4-3, out-rallying Garcia from the baseline before improvising a desperate forehand flick passing winner. With a 5-3 lead, Zhang would close out the high-quality affair after 2 hours and 30 minutes on her second match point.

Stat of the game: Garcia struck 67 winners to 49 unforced errors in the loss and faced just two break points, being broken once. Zhang played a disciplined match from the baseline, striking 21 winners to 25 unforced errors. The victory moved her into the lead in their head-to-head, three wins to two.

More Day 3 results: No.30 Liudmila Samsonova continued her dangerous form, defeating Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina 6-2, 6-4 in the first round. Samsonova saw her 13-match win streak end to Ajla Tomljanovic in the US Open Round of 16 but was back to her winning ways in Tokyo. She will face Wang Xinyu next.

No.3 seed Garbiñe Muguruza opened her tournament with a win, defeating Greek qualifier Despina Papamichail 6-4, 6-2 to advance to the quarterfinals. She awaits the winner of Samsonova vs. Wang.

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