Chinese qualifier ZHANG Shuai came into the 2016 Australian Open with the worst record of any player in the top 300 player, 0-14. None of that mattered in Melbourne as she jumped all over world #2 Simona Halep in the first round, sprinting out to a 4-0 first set lead and holding on for a shocking 6-4 6-3 upset victory. Although Halepeno can have days like this from time to time, in no way did I see this coming. Zhang played with purpose and a strong baseline game that makes one wonder how she was 0-14, especially considering she does have a win over a reigning world #1 (Dinara Safina) in her past. She’s 5’10” with a nice variety of shots. Maybe it’s been mental for the soon to be 27-year old. We’ll see if she can back this up next round against the very tough Alize Cornet, who is coming off a title run at Hobart. Regardless, it was a wonderful win for a tour veteran. I love Simona Halep, but I also love seeing somebody achieve something they’ve worked so hard to reach.
After getting off to an 0-2 start in 2016, former world #1 Ana Ivanovic had a much needed first round win in Melbourne, defeating qualifier Tammi Patterson, 6-2 6-3. With Halep’s loss, this quarter of the draw is wide open. If Ana can beat another qualifier, Anastasija Sevastova, and Madison Keys can get by the dangerous Yaroslava Shvedova, fans would get a marquee third round showdown between Ana and Maddie. The winner would have a very good chance to get through to the quarters, although Alize Cornet is lurking in this section as well. We’ll see who steps up and takes advantage Zhang’s upset of Halep.
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20 ANA IVANOVIC d. [Q] Tammi Patterson, 6-2 6-3
[Q] ZHANG SHUAI d. 2 Simona Halep, 6-4 6-3