The 26-year-old, who is making his Madrid debut, came back from a first-set break and saved a set point at 5-6 in the first-set tiebreak to take the lead. He then hit 12 winners in the second set and got the decisive break in the fifth game to advance after one hour and 33 minutes.
With his first tournament-level win this season, Zhang moved up four places to 95th in the ATP Live Rankings. Last year, he became the first Chinese to enter the world Top 100, before reaching a career-high 91st in February. Zhang will face Canadian Denis Shapovalov in the second round.
In another match of the day in Madrid, the Italian Andrea Vavassori, coming from the qualifications, achieved the most important victory of his career, overcoming the double champion from Madrid, Andy Murray, 6-2, 7-6(7) , to reach the second round.
Vavassaori served well and was efficient at the net throughout the 1 hour and 33 minute encounter, winning 76% (13/17) of her net points. The 27-year-old squandered a break advantage in the second set but held his composure in the tie-break to claim his first ATP Masters 1000 win on his fifth match point.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Vavassori, quoted by the official ATP website. “To play in a tournament like this, on a court like this, against a real champion like him. I’ve watched his whole career. He’s a hero to everyone on the circuit. I think until the second half of the second set I played the best tennis of my life. Then came the nerves, but in the end, only joy.”
The Italian, who climbed 23 places to 141 in the ATP Live Rankings, will next face world number 3 Daniil Medvedev. Vavassori’s biggest win before the win over Murray, no. 52 in the world, it was against Nicolas Jarry, then no. 59 worldwide, in Marrakech.
Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff defeated Lorenzo Sonego 6-3, 6-1 for his fourth clay-court win against a Top 50 player of the season. The world number 65, who reached the quarter-finals in Monte-Carlo earlier this month, next plays #NextGenATP’s American Ben Shelton.
Japan’s Yosuke Watanuki, coming from the qualifiers, defeated Corentin Moutet 6-3, 6-3, while Cristian Garin got past Marc-Andrea Huesler 7-6(5), 6-2. Pedro Cachin beat Abdullah Shelbayh, the Jordanian wild card beneficiary, 6-1, 6-4, and Marcos Giron got past Nuno Borges 6-2, 7-6(7).
In the evening session, the Serbian Lajovic defeated the Australian Kublev, 6-3, 6-3, while the Spanish Zapata Miralles got past the American McDonald in three sets, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 ( 4), and the Russian Karatsev prevailed 7-6 (5), 7-5, in front of the Serbian Laslo Djere.
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