MELBOURNE: China’s Zheng Qinwen has advanced to her first Grand Slam semifinal after a hard-fought three-set victory over Anna Kalinskaya. This achievement comes in a year that marks the 10th anniversary of Li Na’s historic win in Melbourne, with Zheng poised to become the next big Chinese sensation in tennis. Li was the first Chinese player to win the tournament in 2014, and now Zheng is just two matches away from potentially achieving the same feat.
The 21-year-old Zheng managed to defeat Russia’s Anna Kalinskaya with scores of 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-1 on Wednesday night in Melbourne. This win has set her up for a semifinal match against Ukrainian qualifier Dayana Yastremska, who is currently ranked 93rd in the world. The winner of this match will secure a spot in the final on Thursday.
This will be the first time Zheng and Yastremska will face each other on tour. Yastremska also made history on Wednesday by becoming the first women’s singles qualifier to reach the semifinals at Melbourne since 1978.
Despite being a strong favorite against the 75th-ranked Russian, Zheng managed to keep her cool under pressure. With this win, she has become the third Chinese player to reach the Australian Open semifinal in the Open Era, and the youngest Chinese player to do so.
Kalinskaya, who entered this year’s Australian Open with a 4-13 lifetime record at the majors, managed to win the first set in a tiebreak. However, Zheng didn’t let this setback affect her. She played flawlessly in the second set, breaking for 5-3 and closing out the set with an ace.
Zheng continued her momentum into the deciding set, securing consecutive breaks and winning five consecutive games from 0-1 to take a commanding 5-1 lead. She served out the match in the next game, finishing the deciding set with 13 winners against five unforced errors.
The No.12 seed finished the match by winning nine of the final ten games, improving her lifetime record against the 25-year-old Russian to 1-1. For the match, Zheng hit 42 winners against 35 unforced errors, while Kalinskaya hit 18 winners against 30 unforced errors. Despite dropping the opening set, Zheng managed to turn the match around, improving her record at the majors to 3-7 when losing the first set, and 19-8 overall at the majors. It’s worth noting that Zheng has yet to face a Top 50 player in the tournament, having faced players with an average ranking of 78.8.
Zheng Qinwen and her upcoming opponent have never faced each other on the professional tour before.
Despite this being her ninth appearance in a major tournament’s main draw, Zheng managed to stay calm under the pressure of being a strong favorite against the Russian player, who is currently ranked 75th. Her performance has led her to become the third Chinese player to reach the semifinals of the Australian Open in the Open Era. Moreover, she has set a new record as the youngest Chinese player to ever accomplish this feat.
Anna Kalinskaya, who had a 4-13 record at the majors before this year’s Australian Open, managed to secure four consecutive victories and only dropped one set. She won the first set in a tiebreak during her match against Zheng Qinwen. Both players showed great composure, striking the ball cleanly and confidently using their backhand to score points.
Kalinskaya successfully landed 82 percent of her first serves in the first set and converted her first set point with a powerful second-serve backhand return.
However, Zheng Qinwen, hailing from Beijing, didn’t let this setback deter her. She played impeccably in the second set, not facing a single break point and breaking for 5-3 before sealing the set with an ace.
In the deciding set, Zheng maintained her momentum, achieving consecutive breaks and winning five straight games from 0-1 to take a strong 5-1 lead. She served out the match in the next game, finishing the final set with 13 winners against five unforced errors, and converting all three break points she had.
Zheng ended the match by winning nine of the last ten games, evening her lifetime record against the 25-year-old Russian to 1-1. In the match, Zheng hit 42 winners against 35 unforced errors, while Kalinskaya hit 18 winners against 30 unforced errors. This victory improved Zheng’s record to 3-7 at the majors when losing the first set, and 19-8 overall at the majors. Despite facing players with an average ranking of 78.8 and not yet facing a Top 50 player, Zheng’s run has been remarkable.
Regardless of the outcome of Thursday’s semifinal, Zheng will enter the Top 10 after the Australian Open, becoming the second Chinese woman to achieve this distinction, following in the footsteps of Li Na.
After her victory in Melbourne, an incredibly touching interview of Zheng Qinwen in front of the legendary Rod Laver