In the final singles match of the first day of the Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai local favourite Wildcard Zheng Saisai claimed her 3rd Top 20 win of the season with a straight-set defeat of No 3 seed Madison Keys in round-robin play in the Orchid Group.
I mixed up a lot, like I'm not going only wide or only to the T, she didn't know where I was going to serve. So I think I am doing pretty consistent today Zheng Saisai
“I am pretty happy about the win today because I didn’t expect to win today,” Zheng admitted, after the match. “I was just going to fight for it.”
Thrilling her homeland crowd in the last match of the day, Zheng upset the American, 6-4 6-2, after 91 minutes of play.
The World No 40 avenged her straight-set loss to the 13th-ranked American in their only previous clash, which also took place in the round-robin portion of Zhuhai in 2015.
It has been a strong season for the Chinese No 2 after claiming her first-ever WTA singles title at San Jose this summer, propelling her to a career-high ranking of No 37 in August
Zheng now finds herself in great standing in the Orchid Group, with a victory over the three-woman group’s top-ranked player.
World No 15 Petra Martic also resides in the Group with Zheng and Keys, and the trio will battle each other for one semi-final spot.
Zheng started the match off well, using drop-shots to great effect and reaching break point in the first game, then forcing an error with her backhand to take the early lead.
Keys, however, struck right back for 1-1, converting her 3rd break point of the game with a winning volley.
Both players were already trying to polish off points in the forecourt whenever they could, but it was Keys who found herself in peril on serve more often than her opponent at the outset of the encounter.
The American had to save 3 more break points before holding for 2-1, but then was broken by Zheng in her next service game as the hometown heroine forced errors from the American.
Again, Keys quickly got back to level terms, punching another volley winner on break point to reach 3-3 but she was never quite able to keep her momentum rolling after breaking serve, and Zheng swiftly garnered a break point in the very next game with a stirring forehand pass down the line.
Fired another forehand to break again, Zheng broke to move ahead 4-3 and this time held on to her advantage as she continued to use her variety to carve her way to 5-3 with more drop-shots and volleys.
Zheng had to face a break point when serving for the set at 5-4, but she fended Keys off with a well-timed strong serve, and closed out the opener on her 2nd set point after the American sent a backhand wide.
The Chinese immediately established her dominance in the second after outlasting Keys in a rally on break point in the first game and rolled on from there, breaking Keys twice more en route to a commanding 5-0 lead.
Keys got one break back as she edged to 5-2, but was still in a dire predicament as she faced Zheng serving for the match for a second time.
She pulled from 30-0 to 30-30 in that game, but netted a backhand to set up Zheng’s first match point and while a forehand winner by the American brought the game to deuce, a netted return gave the Chinese another chance.
Zheng prolonged a rally with outstanding defence before closing out the lengthy point, and the match, with a forehand winner down the line.
“I think I played pretty solid today,” said Zheng. “[Keys] didn’t put many first serves in, which gave me more opportunities to go into the rallies and start to run her. So I think that’s the key for today.”
“When I served, I tried to just surprise her,” Zheng continued.
“I mixed up a lot, like I’m not going only wide or only to the T, she didn’t know where I was going to serve. So I think I am doing pretty consistent today.”
With her win on Tuesday evening, Zheng has greatly increased her chances to get a good run in Zhuhai.