BEIJING, Oct. 2 -- China's Zheng Saisai pushed Ashleigh Barty all the way in the 2019 China Open round of 16 here on Wednesday, taking the tournament's top seed to a deciding set before ultimately losing 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-2.
It looked as if Barty would make short work of Zheng when she raced into a 3-0 lead from the start, and the Australian was never truly threatened as she closed out the first set in 43 minutes.
But if Barty thought she was to have the whole match her own way, she was very much mistaken, with Zheng matching her stride for stride and forcing a tiebreak after an error-strewn performance from the Australian.
To the delight of the Chinese crowd, who cheered Zheng's every point to the echo, the home favorite raced into a 6-1 lead, and though Barty saved four set points, Zheng prevailed and took the tiebreak 7-5.
Alas for Zheng, Barty raised her game in the decider, breaking Zheng's serve twice and sealing a 6-2 set win with relative ease, though the Australian was critical of her own performance after the match.
"I made probably over 20 errors in that second set, which is disappointing," lamented Barty. "Too many times I gave away cheap service games, but I'm happy with how we were able to respond in the third set."
Despite her defeat, Zheng was pleased with her performance, which was not helped by a muscle complaint that restricted her movement.
"Overall, I thought I played well," the Chinese player said. "I was getting into my game in the second set. But when it went to her service games in the third set, she served really well. That was a turning point. I lost focus. My injury had some impact on my game."
Barty's next match is a quarterfinal tie against Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic.