STANFORD, Calif.- Fresh off her first career WTA main draw victory, sophomore All-American Carol Zhao is looking ahead to her next challenge. And it’s a big one.
Zhao, who had to survive two rounds of qualifying over the weekend just to reach the main draw, squares off against Serbia’s Ana Ivanovic in the round of 16 during Thursday’s afternoon session of the Bank of the West Classic. Zhao and Ivanovic are slated to compete in the last of three matches inside the stadium, with first serve scheduled for approximately 2:30-3:30 p.m. The match will be televised on Tennis Channel.
First, it was back-to-back three-set victories against qualifiers Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic and Marina Shamayko of Russia. On Tuesday, Zhao led 6-2, 1-0 before Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer, ranked No. 65 in the world and winner of three WTA singles titles, elected to retire due to a viral illness.
Now, the stakes are about to get even higher against Ivanovic, former World No. 1 and winner of 14 career WTA titles. Ivanovic, the 2008 French Open champion, enters this week ranked No. 11 in the world and seeded No. 5 in the tournament. Ivanovic has never advanced past the second round in two previous Bank of the West Classic appearances.
Regardless of what happens Thursday, this year’s Bank of the West Classic has proven to be a valuable experience for the 19-year-old Zhao, who has attracted the attention of fellow WTA players and the local and national media contingent covering the tournament.
A native of Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada, Zhao is coming off an impressive rookie campaign. Earning All-America honors after advancing to the round of 16 at the NCAA Singles Championship, Zhao was also named the ITA Northwest Region Player to Watch. An All-Pac-12 Second Team pick, Zhao was awarded a final No. 22 national singles ranking after finishing 30-7 overall and 19-2 in duals, playing mainly at the No. 3 spot. She was dominant all year, with 27 of her 30 wins coming in straight sets while winning 17 consecutive matches from Jan. 19-April 12.
Much of Stanford’s success last season could be attributed to Zhao, along with fellow freshmen Taylor Davidson and Caroline Doyle. The rookie trio combined to provide 10 match clinchers and compiled a 90-21 overall record, with Doyle’s 34 victories leading the group. All three players elevated their games in the clutch, smoothly transitioning into the lineup during their debut seasons.
Stanford players enjoying recent success in the Bank of the West Classic include Nicole Gibbs, who reached the second round in each of the last two years and faced Serena Williams in 2012 and Mallory Burdette, who advanced to the second round in 2012.
Log on to www.BankoftheWestClassic.com for more information.
ABOUT THE BANK OF THE WEST CLASSIC: The Bank of the West Classic is the longest-running women-only professional tennis tournament in the world and is the first stop of the Emirates Airline US Open Series. Owned and operated by IMG, the WTA Premier event features a 28-player singles draw and a 16-team doubles draw with total prize money of $710,000. Held on Stanford University’s campus at Taube Family Tennis Stadium since 1997, former champions include: Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Andrea Jaeger, Monica Seles, Martina Hingis, Lindsay Davenport, Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Kim Clijsters.
ABOUT THE BANK OF THE WEST CLASSIC: Founded in 1874, $68 billion-asset Bank of the West (www.bankofthewest.com), Member FDIC and Equal Housing Lender, offers a wide range of personal, commercial, wealth management and international banking services. The bank operates more than 600 retail and commercial banking locations in 19 Western and Midwestern states. Bank of the West is a subsidiary of BNP Paribas, which has a presence in 80 countries with 190,000 employees.
ABOUT THE EMIRATES AIRLINE US OPEN SERIES: Now in its 11th season, the Emirates Airline US Open Series continues to serve as a true regular season of hard court tennis, linking eight summer tournaments to the US Open. Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams won the 2013 US Open and Emirates Airline US Open Series men’s and women’s titles, each earning a record tennis paycheck of $3.6 million. Roger Federer (2007) and Kim Clijsters (2005) also accomplished the feat of winning the Emirates Airline US Open Series and US Open singles title within the same year.