Toronto, October 30, 2015 – Canadian Carol Zhao has advanced into the biggest pro-level semifinal of her career following a 7-5, 6-3 victory over countrywoman Heidi El Tabakh at the $50,000 Tevlin Challenger at Aviva Centre in Toronto on Friday.
It was an up-and-down match, with Zhao coming back from a break down twice in the first set, including at 4-5 with El Tabakh serving for the one-set advantage. In the second set, Zhao again went down an early break but was able to immediately climb back before breaking at 4-3 and serving out the win. The 20-year-old Stanford University student, from Richmond Hill, ultimately was the steadier player through the nearly 90-minute match, facing just four break points to El Tabakh’s 13.
“It’s always tough to play a fellow Canadian and Heidi has been playing really well this tournament,” Zhao said. “It was a close match, there were a few key moments and I was fortunate to grab those especially in the second set. Tennis comes down to those few points. I’m fortunate to be through and I’m really happy to be able to play tomorrow.”
Zhao is now into the biggest semifinal of her career, after having made two previous semis at $25K Challenger events and two at $10K tournaments. She will face No. 1 seed Tatjana Maria of Germany for a place in the final. Ranked world No. 74, Maria advanced into her second straight Tevlin Challenger semifinal via a 6-4, 6-3 triumph over last year’s runner-up, No. 6 seed Maria Sanchez of the United States.
“It was a pretty hard match because in the first set I was a break down, so it was hard to come back,” Maria said. “I’m happy with the way I played, because she is really good, so I’m happy that I won. I’ve had three good matches, I’ve played good tennis, and now I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
The second semifinal will be a re-match of last week’s $50,000 Saguenay Challenger final in Quebec, which saw Serbian Jovana Jaksic defeat Swiss Amra Sadikovic. On Friday, they both set up their duel with straight-sets wins in the quarter-finals. Jaksic has now clinched eight matches in a row following a dominant 6-3, 6-0 triumph over No. 8-seeded American Kristie Ahn, while 2011 champion Sadikovic maintained a perfect record at the Tevlin Challenger with a 6-3, 6-2 takedown of No. 7 seed Michaella Krajicek of Netherlands.
In the doubles championship match, No. 1-seeded Canadian-American duo Sharon Fichman from Toronto and Sanchez captured the crown by a score of 6-2, 6-7(6), 10-6 over Ahn and Hungarian Fanni Stollar. For Fichman, it is her third Tevlin Challenger doubles title (2007, 2010) while it is Sanchez’s second consecutive after also winning last year with fellow American Taylor Townsend.
“It was a great match and Maria definitely stepped up and played great when I needed her to,” Fichman said. “I think that was the good dynamic of the partnership this week in general.”
“It’s really fun to win at home, I love it. Of all the tournaments you can win, playing at home is always the best feeling.”
Saturday’s semifinals will commence at 11 a.m. with Jaksic against Sadikovic, followed by Maria versus Zhao. The Tevlin Challenger will conclude at the Centre of Excellence at Aviva Centre, home of Rogers Cup presented by National Bank, on Sunday. In its 11th year, the tournament has seen many past champions move on to greater successes on the professional circuit, including former world No. 5 and Wimbledon runner-up Eugenie Bouchard (2012), two-time WTA titlist Heather Watson (2010), 2013 Wimbledon runner-up Sabine Lisicki (2007), and former world No. 21 Aleksandra Wozniak (2005). Admission is free for fans all week. Please click here to view the draws and order of play.