Zheng reaches Australian Open semifinals

Melbourne, Jan 24 (UNI) China’s top-ranked tennis player Zheng Qinwen reached her maiden Grand Slam semifinal after a comeback victory over unseeded Anna Kalinskaya at the Australian Open on Wednesday.

Zheng fought back 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-1 in a tense night session quarterfinal at the Rod Laver Arena.

The 21-year-old Zheng will start as the favorite against Ukraine qualifier Dayana Yastremska in the semifinals as expectations build for Chinese tennis’ biggest star.

Yastremska earlier beat unseeded Linda Noskova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-4 in 78 minutes.

“I told myself to stay focused. I’m really happy to be in the semifinals,” said Zheng, who emerged victorious after two hours and 20 minutes.

Zheng showed no signs of nerves in her second Grand Slam quarterfinal and broke in the opening game. But she was unable to consolidate her lead in a see-saw first set against the Russian.

Zheng again failed to consolidate a break as Kalinskaya grew in confidence and drew first blood by winning a tight tiebreak.

But Zheng regrouped in the second set with the pivotal break in the eighth game before drawing level. A confident Zheng raced through the deciding set to continue defying an unpredictable women’s tournament, in which the Chinese is the only seeded player left in her half of the draw for the quarterfinals.

The 12th seed is living up to the hype after a breakout season last year yielded two titles and a spectacular run to the quarterfinal at the US Open.

She remains on track to emulate her hero Li Na, who memorably won the Australian Open a decade ago.

At a post-match conference, Zheng said that at the beginning of the first set, she was just thinking too much, which made her get early breaks and unable to hold her serve.

“When I lost the first set directly, I tried to tell myself to stay focused and not to think too much, just focus [on] right now. Because the first set already proved that thinking too much is not helping, and you can’t play your best tennis there. So I’m really happy that I’m able to change that and to win the match at the end,” Zheng said.

As for her preparation in the next 24 hours before coming back to Rod Laver Arena, Zheng said that she would just basically do some recovery and think about what she has to do for her semifinal.

“Enjoy on court, focus on the present. I mean, there is nothing I can change too much in 24 hours, right? So I just keep simple and let’s go for it,” she added.

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