Zhang Shuai broke down crying after losing her first-round match at the 2023 French Open. The Chinese star has been struggling to find any form recently, and the loss in Paris seemed to be her breaking point.
Shuai lost to Poland's Magdalena Frech 6-1 6-1 in the opening round match that lasted just 49 minutes. Shuai hit seven doubles faults and won just 11 points on her serve.
She entered the 2023 French Open after a humiliating 6-0, 6-0 defeat to Anna-Lena Freidsam in the first round of the Strasbourg Open.
Zhang Shuai teared up in her post-match press conference while answering questions from the Chinese media.
Shuai has looked exhausted mentally and physically and has lost eight matches in a row in 2023. Her last win came at the end of January, at the Lyon Open.
However, her struggles on the court are linked to her tough time outside tennis. The 34-year-old has not been to China for three years. She was not selected for the Chinese contingent heading to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics despite being the highest-ranked tennis player in her country.
The decision was likely connected to Shuai's decision to play in the 2021 Wimbledon Championships, which ended just 11 days ahead of the Olympics. This led to tensions between her and the Chinese Tennis Federation.
Zhang Shuai struggles to win matches in 2023
Zhang Shuai started her 2023 WTA season playing the two 500 tournaments in Adelaide. However, she failed to register a win in either of them.
Shuai entered the Australian Open main draw as the No. 23 seed. She comfortably won her first three matches before going down against Karolina Pliskova in the fourth round, 6-0, 6-4.
Shuai then headed to the Lyon Open, where she was defending her title. She started her campaign with a win against Madison Brengle but lost to Maryna Zavneska in the second round.
This loss sent Shuai on a downward trajectory, as she has lost 10 straight matches since then. The slump saw Shuai lose her Chinese No. 1 ranking to Qinwen Zheng, currently ranked World No. 19.
The struggles from the singles game have also been apparent in Zhang Shuai's doubles matches. She is ranked World No. 23 in the doubles live ranking.
Despite winning a title at the Abu Dhabi Open with Luisa Stefani, Shuai has not found success since then. Her next best result is a semi-final appearance at the Qatar Open with Giuliana Olmos.
She will enter the doubles main draw at the 2023 French Open with defending champion Kristina Mladenovic.