Rebecca Marino waits to return serve.

Photo: Martin Sidorjak

Zhu Lin continues to be a thorn in the side of Rebecca Marino this year as the Canadian fell to her Chinese rival for the third time in four meetings in 2023 on Friday at the Rothesay Classic.

The quarter-final battle in Birmingham was one of the closest of their six meetings, all since the start of 2022. But after taking the opening set, Marino was unable to close the door as Zhu fought back for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win.

Marino had gotten into the main draw as a lucky loser after having lost in the final round of qualifying. The Canadian took advantage of her second chance, beating Wang Xiyu and Emina Bektas to reach her first quarter-final of the year before the three-set loss to Zhu.

As is often the case on grass and for Marino in general, the serve was key but it left something to be desired for the Canadian. While she did fire 10 aces, she had seven double faults and only won 36 per cent of her second serve points, which was problematic as she only put 52 per cent of her first serves in play. She faced a dozen break points in the match and was broken five times.

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It was a sluggish start for Marino, who faced break points in her first service game and was broken in the third game. However, she responded with an immediate break back and then broke again late to take the opening set.

Despite Marino’s ferocious serve and the slick grass surface, Zhu was able to apply constant pressure in the Canadian’s service games. While Marino survived in her first two games of the second set, she was broken at 3-3 and this time the Chinese did not let her back in, returning the favour with a break to level the match at a set apiece.

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In the decider, Marino spent most of her time defending her serve and never had a look at a break. Zhu won the last four games of the match from 2-2, breaking twice to end the Canadian’s run.

One more week remains before the pinnacle of the grass season at Wimbledon. Marino’s best result at the All-England Club was a second-round appearance in 2011. Despite her game being well-suited for grass, she has only made two main-draw appearances at the grass major in her career.