Sloane Stephens vs Shuai Zhang, Australian Open R1 Preview

Australian Open 🇦🇺 R1 Preview
(13) 🇺🇸 Sloane Stephens vs 🇨🇳 Shuai Zhang

The 2018 Australian Open will be Sloane Stephens’ first Grand Slam appearance since claiming her maiden Grand Slam title at the U.S Open last year. Stephens will begin the event with an opening round clash against China’s Shuai Zhang. Interestingly, Stephens is yet to win a match since her win over Madison Keys in the final of last year’s U.S Open, Stephens arrives in Melbourne on the back of 5 consecutive losses.

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Sloane Stephens and Shuai Zhang both made their big breakthrough’s at the Grand Slam level at Melbourne Park, both have great memories at the event. Stephens reached the semi-finals in 2013 whilst Zhang reached the quarter-finals in 2016. The quick hard courts in Melbourne really suit both Stephens and Zhang.

Sloane Stephens’ only match in the lead-up to the Australian Open was In Sydney where she was trashed by Camila Giorgi 6-3 6-0 in the opening round. Shuai Zhang’s form is better but unspectacular, Zhang reached the second round in Shenzhen and Hobart, beaten by Diyas in 3 sets in Shenzhen and Sabalenka in straight sets in Hobart.

Stephens holds a 2-1 head-to-head record over Zhang. The most recent match between the pair took place on grass in Birmingham in 2014, Stephens won 6-3 6-1.

Shuai Zhang vs Aryna Sabalenka, Hobart R2 Preview

Hobart International 🇦🇺🌧️ R2 Preview
(1) 🇨🇳 Shuai Zhang vs 🇧🇾 Aryna Sabalenka

Top seeded Shuai Zhang faces a tough test in the second round of the Hobart International on Wednesday where she comes up against in-form Belarussian Aryna Sabalenka. This should be an exciting match-up between two very aggressive players. Sabalenka is one of the hottest players on tour right now, the fearless teenager continues to rise up the rankings and will relish the opportunity of the playing the top seed in Hobart. Will Sabalenka take another step forward or will the more experienced Zhang be too solid?

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Shuai Zhang has the strange title of being a top seed this week in Hobart, not a position the world number 35 is used to finding herself in. Zhang made a positive start to her Hobart campaign on Tuesday by defeating Poland’s Magda Linette in straight sets, a 7-5 6-3 victory.

Aryna Sabalenka has seemingly rolled into 2018 with the same dangerous form she ended the 2017 season. Sabalenka had a good week in Shenzhen to start the year, reaching the quarter-finals with 2 commanding wins before succumbing to Simona Halep quite handily. Sabalenka advanced to the second round in Hobart courtesy of 6-4 6-3 win over Eugenie Bouchard in what was a fairly messy match. Both players struggled behind their serve but Sabalenka was the more consistent and clinical of the two.

The only previous meeting between the pair ended in a 6-4 6-2 win for Zhang at an ITF event in 2016. Sabalenka has improved significantly since their last meeting, expect the Belarussian to give Zhang a far tougher test on Wednesday in Hobart.

Karolina Pliskova vs Shuai Zhang, U.S Open R3 Preview

US Open, 🇺🇸🍎🗽🚕 R3 Preview + Prediction
(1) 🇨🇿 Karolina Pliskova vs (27) 🇨🇳 Shuai Zhang

World number 1 Karolina Pliskova survived a scare in the second round at Flushing Meadows, Pliskova was forced to came from a set down to defeat Nicole Gibbs and set up a third round clash with China’s Shuai Zhang. Pliskova will be happy to see Shuai Zhang in the third round, Pliskova holds a perfect 4-0 head-to-head record over Zhang and easily accounted for Zhang 6-2 6-0 in their most recent match in Doha earlier this year. Pliskova will be hoping for an improved performance on Saturday and another straightforward win over Zhang as she continues her quest to claim a maiden Grand Slam title and go one step better than her runner-up appearance in New York last year. 

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Magda Linette vs Shuai Zhang, New Haven R2 Preview

Connecticut Open, 🇺🇸🏫 New Haven preview + prediction
R2: (Q) 🇵🇱 Magda Linette vs 🇨🇳 Shuai Zhang

Shuai Zhang caused the biggest upset of the opening round when she eliminated 3-time former champion Petra Kvitova in straight sets. Zhang claimed a surprisingly easy 6-2 6-1 win over Petra Kvitova on Monday night and will look to bring momentum from that big win into her second round clash with Magda Linette on Wednesday. In more good news for Zhang, she holds a perfect 2-0 head-to-head record over Linette heading into this second round clash at the Connecticut Open.

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Shuai Zhang vs Sara Errani, Miami R2 Preview

Miami Open, 🇺🇸🌴🐬 R2 Match Preview
(30) 🇨🇳 Shuai Zhang vs 🇮🇹 Sara Errani

Sara Errani is finally starting to gain some momentum in 2017. The Italian has plummeted down the rankings to outside the top 100 in recent times as she has struggled to find top form after some injury troubles. The last couple of weeks have been a bit more impressive for Errani, the former top 5 player has won a couple of tight matches in recent times including a hard-fought first round win in Miami over Belinda Bencic to set up a second round clash with the 30th seeded Shuai Zhang.

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Varvara Lepchenko vs Shuai Zhang, Australian Open R3 Preview

Australian Open R3: Varvara Lepchenko vs (Q) Shuai Zhang

Shuai Zhang has been the biggest giant-killer at this year’s Australian Open. The Chinese qualifier has advanced to the third round courtesy of two stunning upsets over Simona Halep and Alize Cornet. Zhang’s Australian Open campaign continues on Saturday night when she takes on the experienced American Varvara Lepchenko in a third round clash.

Varvara Lepchenko has made a reasonable start to the season, showing good form in Brisbane where she reached the quarter-finals and is now into the third round at Melbourne Park for the second year in a row. Lepchenko advanced through to the third round courtesy of a three set victory over Lesia Tsurenko and a straight set victory over Lara Arruabarrena. Lepchenko now has a wonderful chance to reach the fourth round at Melbourne Park for the first time in her career when she comes up against a Chinese qualifier on Saturday night.

 

This has been the best week of Shuai Zhang’s career. Prior to this week the Zhang had a 0-14 record in Grand Slam main draws, she has certainly exceeded all expectations this week to come through qualifying and reach the third round. Zhang started the week by producing the biggest upset of the tournament thus far with a 6-4 6-2 victory over Simona Halep before backing up that victory impressively well to upset Alize Cornet 6-3 6-3. It must be said that Cornet played very poorly in that match.

Lepchenko won the only previous encounter between the pair, 5-7 6-4 6-1 victory in Eastbourne back in 2014. I suspect Lepchenko will again be too good for Zhang and finally end her miracle run in Melbourne. This will be a very different match for Zhang, she will not be allowed to dictate play like she was in her first two matches this week, I highly doubt she is going to be able to produce another upset here. Lepchenko is very experienced and will see this as a massive opportunity, I doubt she will waste it.

Prediction: Varvara Lepchenko to defeat Shuai Zhang in 2 sets

Aga First up on Court Philippe Chatrier

The first match on Court Philippe Chatrier in 2014 features Polish world number 3 Agnieszka Radwanska. I’m pleased to see the organizers haven’t shoved her on a lesser court as they often do in Melbourne and New York. Her opponent, Chinese number 2 Shuai Zhang who is fresh off a strong run in Rome.

Zhang had impressive victories over more fancied opponents Petra Kvitova and Christina McHale before falling to Serena Williams in the quarterfinals.

 Radwanska arrives in Paris having played quite well in the lead up tournaments, reaching the quarterfinals in Rome and Stuttgart as well as a semi final appearance in Madrid. The draw has been relatively kind to Aga; to me she has a very good chance to progress to the semifinal stage for her first time at Roland Garros.

 Aga will come into this match as the warm favourite. These two have met on one previous occasion,  with the Pole taking the match in straight sets. Aga usually rolls through these matches and I can’t see Zhang troubling her too much, she just doesn't have the weapons to do that.

 Prediction: Agnieszka Radwanska to defeat Shuai Zhang 6-2 6-2