China’s Zhang Shuai Winning, for a Change, in a Grand Slam

China's Zhang Shuai celebrates during her third-round match against Varvara Lepchenko of the U.S. at the Australian Open Saturday. PHOTO: THOMAS PETER/REUTERS

Melbourne, Australia—Zhang Shuai, the tennis player who couldn’t win a match, no longer remembers how to lose.

The 27-year-old from China, ranked No. 133 in the world, scored another improbable victory at the Australian Open on Saturday evening, 6-1, 6-3, against Varvara Lepchenko to advance to the fourth round.

It was Zhang’s third victory this tournament, and the third victory in her career at Grand Slam events after eight years of defeats. Zhang had a 0-14 record at Grand Slam tournaments before this year—four losses at the Australian Open, five at the French Open, two at Wimbledon and three at the U.S. Open.

“I want to show the best of Zhang Shuai,” she said. “I think I did a great job today.”

Zhang, who considered retirement last season, arrived in Australia needing to win three matches just to qualify for a spot in the main draw. She has since beaten Simona Halep, the No. 2 player in the world; Alizé Cornet, a veteran who beat Serena Williams at Wimbledon in 2014; and now Lepchenko. Her parents, who she said had never traveled with her prior to this tournament, have watched their daughter stun one opponent after another.

Zhang will play American Madison Keys on Monday. Keys reached the semifinals here last year.

Zhang’s Melbourne run has been the talk of the locker room. Her fellow players have hugged her, congratulated her and cheered her on.

“Everybody say I make everybody cry,” she said. “They thought I would not win one match in the Grand Slam.”

Now, she said, she dreams about winning the tournament. “Before, no,” she said. “But today, maybe yes.”

Zhang has played so well that confusion arose among reporters about her English nickname, which some thought was Serena, a nod to top seed and defending champion Serena Williams. Zhang said her English nickname was, in fact, Rose, and that she wasn’t fond of it.

“I don’t know why some people call me Serena,” she said. “I’m not Serena.”

She added: “Better [to] call me Shuai.” That’s plenty good enough.


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