Beijing - Chinese wild card Zhang Shuai's fairytale season continued on Thursday when she became the first player to reach the semi-finals of the $2.2 million WTA Elite Trophy tournament.
On home turf in the southern Chinese city of Zhuhai she beat Timea Babos of Hungary 7-6 (7/2), 6-4.
For years Zhang played in the shadow of Chinese tennis heroine Li Na, and a poor 2015 season saw her slip down the rankings to 186 -- her lowest position in seven years -- and consider retirement.
But the 27-year-old began the year with a first-round upset of 2014 French Open finalist Simona Halep at the Australian Open -- her first win in a Grand Slam main draw, which left her in tears -- going on to reach the quarter-finals.
She has since climbed to 28 in the world rankings and was given a wild card into the Elite Trophy.
The tournament's round-robin structure meant she only needed to win four games to top her group and secure a place in the last four. In the event she prevailed in an hour and 36 minutes.
"I didn't want to think too much about winning four or five games, because I wanted to win the match," she said afterwards.
"Everything feels really good because I like playing in China. It's my first time playing in Zhuhai and I've won two matches into the semifinal. I'm really happy and really excited."
In the day's other matches, Ukrainian fourth seed Elina Svitolina also secured a semi-final place with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Russia's Elena Vesnina, and France's Caroline Garcia beat Samantha Stosur of Australia 6-4, 6-3.