Tennis: Zhang Shuai grateful to Sam Stosur for talking her out of retirement as the Chinese reaches q-finals

China's Zhang Shuai during the fourth round match for the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, in London on July 8, 2019.
China's Zhang Shuai during the fourth round match for the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, in London on July 8, 2019.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON (AFP) - Zhang Shuai thanked her doubles partner Sam Stosur for talking her out of giving up tennis, as she made the Wimbledon quarter-finals for the first time.

On Monday (July 8), Zhang became the first Chinese woman since Li Na in 2013 to reach the last eight at the All England Club.

World No. 50 Zhang defeated Ukrainian teenager Dayana Yastremska 6-4, 1-6, 6-2.

The 30-year-old will face former world No. 1 Simona Halep on Tuesday for a place in the semi-finals.

But it could all have been so different had it not been for a chat with Stosur over dinner in 2015 when the going got rough.

"She's so special for me. Best friend on tour," said Zhang. "We always, after the court, sometimes we eat together. We go to eat and we talk a little bit about not only tennis. Sometimes about life.

"She's such a nice girl, and she told me when I said I wanted to retire, and she really wanted that I keep going to play."

At the time, Zhang was 186th in the world rankings.

The chat seemed to work as just a few months later, Zhang reached the 2016 Australian Open quarter-finals, ending a sorry-looking 0-14 record at the majors.

"That got me to thinking maybe, okay, I'm going to the Australian Open one more time, one more try," she recalled of the chat with Stosur.

"I'm really, really happy I tried one more time, and also we won this year in the Australian Open doubles. So life is so nice to me."

Zhang memorably beat her Wimbledon quarter-final opponent Halep in the first round on her breakthrough run at the 2016 Australian Open, and has beaten her since in Beijing.

"We played her a few times before. I have some great memories from when we played, and also, my first Grand Slam win in the Australian Open, I beat her," said Zhang.

Halep has not beaten Zhang since their first encounter at Indian Wells in 2012.

"I think I can take revenge because she beat me a few times. It's a new challenge, its a big challenge," the Romanian said. "I will try to fight till the end to win the match."

Before this year, Zhang had never won a main-draw match at Wimbledon in five attempts.

But her 2019 run has included knocking out former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki in the third round.

"Before the first win in the first round, I never thought I could make the quarter-final here, because before this year I never won any singles matches," Zhang said.

"Everything is possible now... I just try my best, because every opponent is very strong. And also, they play really well before at Wimbledon. Amazing week for me."