Dark horse Zheng Qinwen grinds her way into Australian Open semi-final

Zheng Qinwen is through to the semi-final of the Australian Open after beating Anna Kalinskaya.

Zheng Qinwen is through to the semi-final of the Australian Open after beating Anna Kalinskaya. Photo: Getty

Chinese 12th seed Zheng Qinwen is just two wins away from emulating countrywoman Li Na’s famous run to the Australian Open crown after holding off Russian Anna Kalinskaya.

Squaring off for the final spot in this year’s women’s semi-finals, Zheng found her groove after falling a set down to claim a 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 6-1 victory in two hours and 20 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.

“In the first set we have a big competition,” Zheng said after bringing up her longest career winning streak on Wednesday night with a seventh consecutive victory.

“It’s the first time for me (reaching a grand slam semi-final). I’m really happy to be in the semi-finals, especially with such a good performance like this.”

No matter how far she goes from here the 21-year-old from Shiyan will be ranked inside the top 10 for the first time at tournament’s end.

“That’s good news for me,” Zheng said.

“I said last year when I was in (the) Australian Open, ‘I want to be top 10’. And one year later, I’m here.”

Zheng will face Ukraine’s Dayana Yastremska, the first qualifier since 1978 to make the last four of the women’s Open, for a surprise spot in Saturday’s title match.

But she will have less than 24 hours to recuperate for the encounter, slated to follow Thursday’s opening semi-final between heavyweights Coco Gauff and Aryna Sabalenka.

The world No.15 is the highest-ranked player remaining in the blown open top half of the women’s draw and has not faced a seed all tournament.

Kalinskaya beat Zheng in their only previous meeting at the 2022 Guadalajara Open in Mexico but the Chinese was barely 20 years of age and has since gone on to claim two WTA titles.

The Russian had not won a main draw match in Melbourne before this year, losing in the first round on all previous four visits.

Staring at an unlikely berth in the last four, Kalinskaya and Zheng each had their serves broken twice within the first six games.

Unforced errors poured off both racquets all night but Zheng was the one found wanting in the tiebreak, with Kalinskaya punishing a slow second serve to close out the opening set after 57 minutes.

Neither looked remotely like making inroads on the other’s serve until Zheng sprung a surprise attack at 4-3 and closed out the second set with a resounding smash at the net.

The two-time WTA title winner heaped more pressure on Kalinskaya, snaring an early break and converting it to lead 3-1 in the last.

Zheng’s quickness and agility was on full show as Kalinskaya called for the physio in desperation after going down a double break, but there was no Lazarus-like comeback in store.


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