STANFORD, Calif.- Sophomore Carol Zhao’s impressive run at the Bank of the West Classic came to an end on Thursday afternoon, dropping a 6-1, 6-1 decision to current World No. 11 Ana Ivanovic at the Taube Family Tennis Stadium.
Fifth-seeded Ivanovic, the 2008 French Open champion and winner of 14 career WTA titles, controlled the match throughout and next faces 17-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams in the quarterfinals. Pounding groundstrokes and winning all of her services games, Ivanovic would have likely beaten a lot of WTA-level players on Thursday.
Instead, the victory came at the expense of Zhao, a 19-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada, about to enter her second year on The Farm. Zhao can be proud of her performance this week, which began with surviving two rounds of qualifying just to reach the main draw. 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. Despite the outcome, Zhao was in control of the match the entire way.
Both games Zhao won against Ivanovic came via her serve, chipping away at a 3-0 deficit in the first set and getting on the board after trailing 2-0 in the second set. Zhao also enjoyed extra support from the home crowd, cheering her on in the rare moments when a game appeared to be up for grabs.
Overall, this year’s Bank of the West Classic proved to be a valuable experience for Zhao, who attracted the attention of fellow WTA players and the local and national media contingent covering the tournament.
"I think she has a bright future," said Ivanovic. "She started a little nervous so it was important for me to go up 3-0 in the first set. She relaxed more after winning the first game. It was a big stage so she probably wanted to play well. I actually thought she had a big serve at times. I think she just needs more experience to build confidence."
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.
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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.