Zhang Shuai’s miracle run at the Australian Open continued on Monday night with yet another emotional victory for the Chinese world No133, but it also meant heartbreak for 2015 semi-finalist Madison Keys who left the court injured and in tears.
The 27-year-old, who came to Melbourne with zero wins in 14 grand slam appearances and but has now made her way into the quarter-finals, could barely contain her own emotions as she held her nerve to beat the No15 seed 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 while watching Keys suffer from an adductor injury.
Zhang considered retirement just three months ago and brought her parents to Australia thinking it may be their last chance to see her compete. She says she would have liked to open her own “coffee bar” had she left the sport. We're all invited when she does open it.
But since she got to Melbourne, she has won seven matches – three in qualifying and four in the main draw – and now finds herself one of the last eight remaining players in the draw.
Her win over Keys on Monday makes her the first qualifier to reach the quarter-finals in Melbourne since Mexico’s Angelica Gavaldon in 1990 and she now has a chance to go further should she beat Johanna Konta in the next round.
“I’m very exciting. Very happy, yeah. I don't want to stop. I want more step,” said Zhang, who looked too exhausted to form complete sentences in the press conference.
“It's so tough to play against someone injury because, yeah, when I'm saw her like feel more pain. You know, so tough. Maybe two point you feeling like cannot play, and then next three balls, pong, pong, pong, make two ace, one winner.
“So, so tough. You don't know what's happen. And also last year this happened many times. I'm almost winning the match. I lost. I lost the concentrate. But this time I think I try to concentrate. So I'm happy I win the match, yeah.”
“You don’t want to… one I hate retiring, and two, you don’t want to do that to someone who is trying to get into the quarter-finals,” said a tearful Keys, talking to reporters in the media restaurant.
“I thought maybe I could figure it out and somehow get through then have a day off and try but obviously not going to happen.” Asked how disappointed she was, Keys said: “I don’t think there’s a word for it.”
As a qualifier, Zhang has already had an incredibly long two weeks in Melbourne and she convinced herself that her fourth round on Monday was a final to find some strength.
“Before today I'm thinking ‘okay, today is the final’. When somebody already wins six matches at a grand slam, already it’s the final, right?” she said.