Heather Watson advances in Hobart, Aryna Sabalenka upsets Zhang Shuai
Former champion Heather Watson had a smooth ride to the quarter-finals with a 6-2 6-2 win over wildcard Jaimee Fourlis, while Belarus teen Aryna Sabalenka blasted top seed Zhang Shuai out of the Hobart International on Wednesday.
Briton Watson had little difficulty in beating Australian Fourlis, a victory which moves the 2015 champion into a quarter-final against Donna Vekic.
Big-hitting Sabalenka had felled former world number five Eugenie Bouchard in the first round and the Belarusian's aggressive strategy paid dividends again as she triumphed 7-6(3) 6-4.
"It was a really good fight between us," Sabalenka told reporters after firing 37 winners and committing 39 unforced errors.
"This was a match that I really enjoyed. She fights for every point, and it’s always so special when you feel this fight on court."
Broken early, Sabalenka won four games in a row en route to a 5-2 lead in the first set when Zhang staged a comeback to level it at 5-5 before the Belarusian clinched the set.
Sabalenka was more in control in the second set when she claimed a decisive break at 4-3 before serving out to set up a quarter-final clash with fifth seed Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine.
"It's always special when you beat two good players in a row in the same tournament," Sabalenka said.
"It gives me more confidence. You finish the match and you really just think, 'When is the next one? I want to go back on court, I want to beat someone.'"
Alison Riske also advanced after Belgian qualifier Kirsten Flipkens pulled out with a right shoulder injury.
WTA International, Hobart Women's Singles results
Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) beat 1-Shuai Zhang (CHN) 7-6(3) 6-4
Alison Riske (USA) beat Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) (Walkover)
Heather Watson (GBR) beat Jaimee Fourlis (AUS) 6-2 6-2
Monica Niculescu (ROU) beat Varvara Lepchenko (USA) 6-4 6-2