US Open (tennis)

She stopped me quitting: China’s Zhang Shuai topples best friend and former champion Samantha Stosur at US Open

The only Chinese player left in the singles draw faces Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan for a place in the last 16

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 September, 2016, 9:36am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 September, 2016, 9:34pm

China’s Zhang Shuai apologised for knocking best friend Samantha Stosur out of the US Open on Thursday, hailing the former champion for talking her out of quitting the sport last year.

Zhang eased to a 6-3, 6-3 second-round win over the 2011 US Open winner but said she had wished the two friends, who are also doubles partners, had faced each other later in the tournament.

“Everyone knows we are good friends, we train together a lot of the time. When we came to New York, we practiced together at the same time on this same court,” said the 27-year-old after her 70-minute win on the new Grandstand.

Zhang revealed that Stosur convinced her not to quit tennis when they met for a meal in Beijing last year. At the time, she was at 186 in the world rankings.

The chat seemed to work as just a few months later Zhang reached the Australian Open quarter-finals, ending a sorry-looking 0-17 record at the majors.

“She helped me a lot last year when I thought about retiring. She told me to keep going and not give up. She tried to help me by playing doubles.

“It’s a tough feeling playing her and I feel sad for Sam. She always tries her best, she loves the game. I hope that next time we will meet later in the tournament.”

Zhang, now ranked 51st, had lost to Stosur in the second round of the French Open in May.

“I didn’t think I could beat her, it’s very hard to defeat a former champion,” said Zhang after seeing off the 16th seeded Australian.

Zhang is the only Chinese player left in the singles draw in New York. She goes on to face Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan for a place in the last 16.

Win or lose, she has achieved her best result already at the season’s last grand slam. She lost in the first round in 2008, 2011 and 2014 and failed to get out of qualifying on six other occasions.

“I am very excited. I love New York. Now I want to focus on my tennis and not on the fact that I am the last Chinese woman left in the competition,” she said.

Meanwhile, Zhang and Stosur will be on the same side of the net on Friday when they face Russia’s Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova in the second round of the women’s doubles.

Wimbledon champions Serena Williams and Andy Murray, meanwhile, raised the roof at Flushing Meadows, powering into the third round with decisive straight-sets victories.

World number one Williams defeated fellow American Vania King 6-3, 6-3, her 306th grand slam singles match win tying her with Martina Navratilova for the most ever for a woman.

Williams is stalking history, seeking a seventh US Open title and a 23rd grand slam singles crown which would both be open era records.

She fired 13 aces, with a total of 38 winners against 87th-ranked wild card King, and said the troublesome right shoulder that has hindered her since Wimbledon wasn’t a problem.

“So far, so good,” said Williams, who was cheered on by rap mogul Jay Z and his pop superstar wife Beyonce as she booked a meeting with 47th-ranked Swede Johanna Larsson for a place in the last 16.

The win marked Williams’ first match under the new roof of the Arthur Ashe stadium, which was closed all day after early showers that disrupted play on the outside courts.

By the time she opened the night session the rain had actually tailed off.

Murray, however, played with the rain drumming on the US$150 million retractable roof, adding to the noise that has long been a hallmark of America’s grand slam.

Murray, who followed up his Wimbledon triumph with a second straight Olympic gold in Rio, didn’t let the unfamiliar din distract him in a 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 victory over tenacious Spaniard Marcel Granollers.

“We’re lucky that we get to play under the roof because otherwise there’d be no tennis,” Murray said. “It’s good for everyone.”

However, he acknowledged that the acoustics were problematic.

“You can’t hear anything, really,” said Murray, who is trying to become just the fourth man to reach all four grand slam finals in the same year.

“I mean, you could hear the line calls, but not so much when he was hitting the ball or even when you’re hitting the ball, really, which is tough.”

Nevertheless, Murray looked on his way to a routine victory over 45th-ranked Granollers with a 4-1 lead in the opening set, but wasted two set points in dropping his serve in the ninth game before finally breaking Granollers in the next on his seventh set point.

“Thankfully I got through that 5-4 game and then the momentum was back with me,” said Murray, who broke Granollers twice in the second set and once in a tightly contested third to seal the win.

As the showers lingered, 11 doubles matches scheduled for outside courts were cancelled and some remaining matches reassigned.

Venus Williams, the sixth seed whose seven grand slam titles include two US Opens, coasted to the 70th US Open match win of her career 6-2, 6-3 win over Germany’s Julia Goerges.

The elder Williams, bedevilled by 63 unforced errors in a scrappy first-round win over Ukrainian Kateryna Kozlova, cut that to 17 in a crisp performance against 64th-ranked German Goerges.

Fired-up fifth seed Simona Halep also advanced, downing Czech Lucie Safarova 6-3, 6-4 in a battle of former French Open finalists.

Among those who didn’t have the luxury of the roof, 2014 finalist Kei Nishikori of Japan waited out a third-set rain delay en route to a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over 20-year-old Russian qualifier Karen Khachanov.

Women’s fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland survived an early onslaught from US Open debutant Naomi Broady to beat the Briton 7-6 (11-9), 6-3.

The 26-year-old Broady’s aggressive game paid off early, but finally her 37 winners and 36 unforced errors were no match for the canny Radwanska’s 28 and nine.