China's Zheng Qinwen secures her first Grand Slam semifinal appearance

2024-01-25 Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

China's top women's ace Zheng Qinwen secured her career-first Grand Slam semifinal berth in Melbourne on Wednesday after beating Russia's Anna Kalinskaya 2-1 in a quarterfinal clash at the Australian Open.

Currently ranked No 15 this week, Zheng overcame a first-set scare and regained her focus to outlast 75th-ranked Kalinskaya, 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-1, in two hours and 20 minutes at Rod Laver Arena to cruise into a major semifinal for the first time in her young career.

Zheng, who made her first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the U.S. Open last year, won 10 of the last 11 games of the match to become the third Chinese major semifinalist in history.

She follows in the footsteps of two-time Grand Slam champion Li Na, the winner in Melbourne just 10 years ago, retired star Zheng Jie, who reached the semis at 2008 Wimbledon as a qualifier, and Peng Shuai at the 2014 U.S. Open to become the fourth Chinese woman to make it to the major semifinals.

The result also guarantees that Zheng will make her top-10 debut on the WTA rankings next week after the Aussie Open, making her the second Chinese woman after Li to crack the top echelon. Last month, the 21-year-old was named Most Improved Player of the Year after winning her first two WTA Tour titles in Palermo in July and on home soil in Zhengzhou in October.

"Thanks for letting me know that, nobody told me anything about that," Zheng said of her top-10 breakthrough during the post-match interview.

"It's good news for me, another motivation, especially I said last year when I was at the Australian Open that I wanted to be in the top 10. One year later I realized the goal," said Zheng, who lost in the second round at the 2023 AO.

Opening the match with an obvious big-time nerve, Zheng made a string of unforced errors in the first set, but hit her groove midway through the second, hitting 42 winners, including 10 aces, as she pulled away for victory in the decider.

"She played really well today. Really good baseline strokes. The match was really tough for me," said Zheng, who will play Ukraine's Dayana Yastremska on Thursday for a final berth at the season-opening major.

"I just try to stay focused, don't think anything else. I am really excited for the first time for me to be in the semifinals, especially with such a good performance like this," said Zheng.

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