Chinese qualifier Shuai Zhang broke down in tears after shocking Simona Halep at the Australian Open, revealing she recently contemplated retirement after a horrible run of form.
Zhang delivered the biggest women’s shock of the tournament draw in crushing second seed Halep 6-4 6-3 on Tuesday night.
Zhang is ranked 133rd in the world and had lost all 14 of her previous grand slam matches.
The 26-year-old revealed she came close to quitting the sport after failing to make the main draw at last year’s US Open.
“Feeling so sad. Couldn’t win one match even. Ranking from 30 drop to 200 only in few months,” she said.
“So very tough. I was feeling very sad every day. I almost retire.”
Zhang decided to give it one more try, inviting her parents to watch what had shaped as her swansong.
“My father never come to watch me play. This is first time he travel with me, and also my mum,” she said.
“This is big time for me. Because … maybe this is last time in Australia Open.
“If Australia Open not good, maybe I finish tennis.
“I wanted them to maybe see (my) last match in Melbourne … if Australia Open not good, maybe finish tennis.”
Instead she is preparing for a match against Frenchwoman Alize Cornet.
Zhang, who contested the women’s doubles at the 2012 London Olympics with Li Na, thanked the 2014 Australian Open champion during an emotional post-match interview.
“Li Na is a great player and gave me a lot of help, so thank you to her,” Zhang said.
“Yesterday I saw her … she’s always helping the young players.
“I want to thank my coach and my parents. Thank you everybody for supporting me.
“Today is the best moment of my career.”
Zhang sent Halep packing with remarkable ease on Margaret Court Arena, saving nine break points in the contest that lasted an hour and 18 minutes.
“She played really well. She played without fear and she hit every ball,” the Romanian said.
“She was dominating me.
“Tomorrow, it’s a new day. I have to look forward and to stay motivated.”
The pair’s only other meeting on tour came in 2012, when Halep won 6-1 6-1 in a tick over an hour.
Halep dealt with an Achilles injury and the flu in the lead-up to her sixth Open campaign but had been considered one of the leading contenders.
“I didn’t feel the pain (during the match). I had many problems in this period before coming here,” she said.
“I am a little bit down mentally because I was very sick home … but I did everything I could today.”
ZHANG’S PATH TO OPEN BOILOVER:
* 2008: loses on grand slam debut in New York
* 2010: loses at French Open
* 2011: loses at all four slams
* 2012: loses at Melbourne Park and Roland Garros
* 2014: loses at all four slams
* 2015: loses at Melbourne Park and Roland Garros