Zhang Shuai conquered her grass-court nerves to stun No.3 seed Sloane Stephens and advance to the semi-finals of the Aegon Classic

Zhang conquers nerves to set up Ivanovic semi



Originally published on 13/06/14

The 21-year-old did not play a match on grass last year but continued her fine form in Birmingham by beating Stephens 6-3 6-1. She will now face Ana Ivanovic for a place in the final after the top seed beat Klara Koukalova 6-1 6-4.

“When I came out on the court with so many people watching I was a bit nervous but also knew that it would help me play well," said Zhang. "A few days ago, I said to my coach that I never played well on grass and found it difficult to move. But I'm learning every day how to play on grass a little bit more and hopefully I will get a few more matches to improve."

The world No.36 has never been beyond the last 16 at a grass-court event before but has looked at home at the Aegon Classic this year. She broke early in the opening set against Stephens, who didn’t help her cause with 27 unforced errors, and then twice more in the second to secure victory.

“She has improved a lot recently,” said Ivanovic when asked about Zhang. “She's a great girl and I'm sure we'll see lot of her in future. It will be a tough semi-final.”

Ivanovic put in an impressive display to see off Koukalova and reach the semi-finals in Birmingham for a second time. The Serb reeled off four games in a row to take the opening set and then won the last three games of the match to seal her place in the last four.

“I really tried to do my thing because I know she can be dangerous and last time we played, in Doha, I lost," said Ivanovic. "She's won on grass in past and great competitor as she showed in her matches this week. I'm serving well, which I'm happy about. Each match is a new challenge and I'm happy I improve with each one."

Australian Casey Dellacqua reached her first WTA singles semi-final of the year after easing past Kimiko Date-Krumm 6-1 6-0 in just 49 minutes. Dellacqua will face Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in the last four following her impressive 6-4 6-2 victory over fourth seed Kirsten Flipkens.


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