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Chinese duo off to Melbourne flier
Last Updated: 2018-01-17 09:19 | China Daily
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Zhang stuns seeded Stephens, Duan downs opponent with ease

Melbourne Park continued to be a happy hunting ground for Chinese players as Zhang Shuai and Duan Yingying passed their first-round tests at the Australian Open on Monday.

World No 34 Zhang, the 2016 quarterfinalist, enjoyed the biggest scalp of the two, fighting back from a set down to see off reigning US Open champion Sloane Stephens 2-6, 7-6 (2), 6-2.

Meanwhile, Duan, who enjoyed the best Grand Slam performance of her career when reaching the third round in Melbourne last year, eased past Colombian Mariana Duque-Marino 6-0, 6-1.

"I know how hard I'm working ... coming to Australia I'm ready for every match, every player. That's why I won today. I am carrying that confident mindset into every match," Zhang said after upsetting American 13th seed Stephens on Margaret Court Arena - also the scene of the Tianjin native's shock triumph over Simona Halep in 2016.

"Margaret Court Arena is really special for me," admitted Zhang in her on-court interview.

"When I came back here to warm up I was feeling so excited. So I think I was ready today. I always play against great players on this court. I was very happy to play against Sloane."

Stephens made an astonishing recovery from injury to win her first major title on home soil at Flushing Meadows last September, but has since failed to win a single Tour-level match.

And Zhang told her post-match news conference she felt for the 24-year-old.

"I really like Sloane, her character, her gam. As a tennis player, I know how hard it would be for a player to recover from injury and win a Grand Slam in just over a month," Zhang said.

"She is really amazing and I need to learn from her a lot."

The hardcourts of hold many happy memories for Chinese tennis.

Yan Zi and Zheng Jie became the first Asian duo to clinch the women's doubles title there in 2006, while Sun Tiantian partnered with Serbian Nenad Zimonjic to win the mixed doubles title in 2008.

China's most significant success, of course, came in 2014 when Li Na was crowned women's champion in her third Australian Open final.

It wasn't all good news for the Chinese contingent on Monday, however.

Peng Shuai, the 25th seed, struggled with a knee injury in a 6-2, 6-2 loss to 15-year-old Ukrainian qualifier Marta Kostyuk.

Afterwards, the 32-year-old Peng vowed to start from scratch again as she bids to prolong her career until 2020.

Sixteen-year-old wildcard Wang Xinyu, meanwhile, showed plenty of promise in her senior competition debut but lost 6-4, 6-2 to France's Alize Cornet.

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