Zhang shocks Stephens
Zhang Shuai advanced to the semi-finals of the Aegon Classic courtesy of a straight sets win over Sloane Stephens.
Zhang needed less than an hour to dismiss Sloane Stephens, the third-seeded American 6-3 6-1, eventually demoralising an opponent who is the second youngest player in the top 20 and has been widely tipped to push on towards the top 10.
The Chinese no. 2 created controlled pressure off the ground, served deep and consistently, and took perceptive advantage as Stephens' error ratio surged alarmingly upwards.
Stephens certainly had enough weapons to turn the match round, but after dropping serve early on and trailing 1-4 and 2-5 she was already beginning to fret at her failures.
Her problems were compounded by an unfortunate second game in the second set when first a bad bounce and then a net cord denied her points. From then on it was mostly downhill.
Two double faults cost Stephens another break of serve in the next game, and Zhang was not in the mindset to let such a big lead slip. She rallied tenaciously to cling to her next two service games, and fastened an unbreakable grip on the match.
"I think today because I was on centre court I felt great," said Zhang. "There were so many people watching and supporting me. I think this is why I played well.
"I said that I would never play well on grass but this is really a good tournament for me. I am still learning every day how to play on grass."
There was also a comfortable victory for top seed Ana Ivanovic as she saw off Klara Koukalova of the Czech Republic.
The 2008 French Open champion won 6-1 6-4 in little over an hour to set up a clash with Zhang in the last four.