Zhang fired up after breaking grand slam drought

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Shanghai Daily, January 25, 2016
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Zhang has become just the fourth Chinese woman to reach the last 16 of a grand slam.

Eight years of grand slam failure pushed Zhang Shuai to the depths of despair but also fuelled a rage that fired the Chinese qualifier's breakthrough at this year's Australian Open.

The 27-year-old from Tianjin will meet rising American talent Madison Keys in the fourth round today, having become just the fourth Chinese woman to reach the last 16 of a grand slam. In snapping a run of 14 successive first-round exits at the grand slams, 133rd-ranked Zhang also shrugged a huge monkey from her back, with no other active player in the women's top 300 having borne such a record of underachievement at the majors.

After notching her 14th main draw failure at last year's French Open, Zhang bowed out of qualifying at Wimbledon and the US Open in a form dip that all but drove her to retire.

"My coach told me time after time, loss after loss, it doesn't matter," she told reporters in Mandarin. "He said once you finally win, you'll just keep on winning. I don't know if he was trying to comfort me or just cheat me into not giving up.

"So thinking about his words, I kept grinding. I don't think anyone could ever understand how I felt during that losing streak. But luck can change really quickly."

Having stunned second seed Simona Halep in the opening round, China's No. 4 player Zhang upset seasoned Frenchwoman Alize Cornet and American Varvara Lepchenko, playing with a freedom propelled by her grand slam frustrations.

"So many years of dealing with this pressure, not winning, feeling this rage, I think you need this to fire up," she said.

"You've got to be fired up here or you won't get anywhere."

For a bit of luck, Zheng is using Zhang Jie's locker — and it has helped.

"Zheng Jie ... she played well in the Australian Open. But this year she didn't come. This year I use her lucky locker. I don't remember the locker number, but she said, okay, I give you my lucky locker. I hope you can be lucky this year."

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