No 2 seed and defending champion Zhu Lin dispatched Linda Fruhvirtova in straight sets on Thursday to reach the quarter-finals of the Thailand Open, the WTA 250 event at Hua Hin, where she will meet Australian No 1 Arina Rodionova, who beat another Chinese, Bai Zhuoxuan, and will break into the Top 100 for the first time as a result.
Zhu, the World No 45, ensured there would be 3 Chinese players in the Last 8 when she convincingly defeated Fruhvirtova, the talented 18-year old Czech, 6-2 6-2, in 78 minutes.
Her next opponent, Rodionova, reached the second tour-level quarter-final of her career, after Nanchang in 2017, coming from a set down and winning the last 11 games of the match against Bai, 3-6 6-1 6-0, in an hour 57 minutes.
The Russian-born Aussie will now make her Top 100 debut next week, the oldest woman at the age of 34 and 52 days to do so.
Rodionova is continuing her late-career surge, which is partly fuelled by indignation, having been denied a wild-card into the Australian Open by organisers last month.
With a career spanning 20 years, the veteran is Australia’s top-ranked female player, but was eliminated in Melbourne in the 1st-round of qualifying.
Later, Rodionova said that she felt Tennis Australia, the governing body, held a personal vendetta against her.
“The only regrets I have from today is just I gave Tennis Australia something to celebrate,” Rodionova said after her Melbourne loss. “I think they are very pleased with my result today, and that’s what makes me upset.”
Rodionova won 7 lower-level ITF singles titles in 2023 in a break-through year after recovering from a serious wrist injury, and is currently ranked No 101 in the world.
Her run at the Thailand Open will see her rise, provisionally, to at least No 96 when the new rankings come out on Monday, which is an outstanding rise for a player who was ranked 302 at the start of 2023, and, if she wins the tournament, she could close in on the Top 70.
The next-best ranked Australian is Kim Birrell at No 124.
Having already knocked out two Chinese players on her Thai run, Yuan Yue, the No 6 seed, followed by Bai, Rodionova now has to get past a third in Zhu on Friday.
Rodionova will also feature in the doubles semi-final on Friday, alongside her partner Yuan.
Yet another Chinese, Wang Yafan, reached her first tour-level quarter-final since Monterrey 2020 with a straight-sets upset of 8th-seeded Anna Karolina Schmiedlova from Slovakia, 6-2 6-4, and she will meet American Katie Volynets for a place in the semi-finals, who pulled off an upset win of her own by beating Tatjana Maria, the 4th seed from Germany, 5-7 6-2 6-2, after 2 hours and 47 minutes.