Wang Walks In Li Na’s Shoes In Wuhan

Wang Qiang (photo: Xinhua News Agency)

WUHAN, September 27, 2018 (Press Release)

Qiang Wang’s historic run on home soil at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open gathered pace on Thursday when she beat Olympic Gold medallist Monica Puig 63 61 to become the first Chinese player since Li Na to reach the semi-finals of a WTA Premier event in China.

Wang’s win over qualifier Puig sent a huge roar echoing center court crowd at the Optics Valley International Tennis Center and will ensure that she should have plenty of noisy local support when she takes on Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit in Friday’s semi-finals. Thursday’s victory marked her 14th consecutive win on Chinese soil after her WTA Tour title victories this year in Nanchang and, last week, Guangzhou.

“I’m not sure of the significance to everyone,” said Wang, when asked about her success and following in the footsteps of Wuhan-born Li Na, who made the semi-finals of the China Open in Beijing in 2012 . “I’m just trying to do my best and put up my best performance. Well, today’s win makes me very, very happy. This is the first time that I entered the semifinals at a Premier 5, so I’m really happy today.”

Kontaveit put an end to the winning run of qualifier Katerina Siniakova to reach her third WTA Premier semi-final of the season but her first on a hard-court.

Australia’s Ashleigh Barty, 22, takes on 20-year-old Aryna Sabalenka on Friday afternoon in Wuhan. Barty, ranked 17, is the highest ranked player left in the draw and the only seeded semi-finalist after a string of upsets in the earlier rounds.

“Obviously I’m aware of it but I think the other girls that are in the quarter-finals have absolutely earned their spot.” said the Australian, who followed up Wednesday’s career-best win over Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber with a 62 57 64 quarter-final victory over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova on Thursday.

“That’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes. There were some ripping matchups in the first and second rounds. Big players are knocking out big players. It’s the way it is when not everyone is seeded.”

Barty was runner-up to Caroline Garcia in Wuhan last year and enjoys the surface and the surroundings here. “I love that center court. It really is a beautiful center court,” said Barty.

“It’s just nice to be able to back up a result from last year. It’s obviously always in the back of your mind; knowing you’ve played here well before gives you that extra confidence to come out and play freely. I’ve been able to do that in my last couple of matches a little bit better. Certainly happy to be in another semi-final.”

Big-hitting Belarussian Sabalenka won her first career WTA title at the Connecticut Open in August and is enjoying some impressive form this week. She proved much too strong for Dominika Cibulkova in the quarters. “I didn’t expect this. I’m just came to this tournament for enjoying, just to show my best. Well, it is how it is. I am happy with this.”

Sabalenka said she was looking forward to playing Barty. “Well, she’s a great player. She’s a tricky player because she’s playing slice, lobs, with spin. Well, it will be not easy match. Of course, it’s a semi-final, who gets an easy one here?”

[16] A. Barty (AUS) d A. Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) 62 57 64
A. Sabalenka (BLR) d D. Cibulkova (SVK) 75 63
A. Kontaveit (EST) d [Q] K. Siniakova (CZE) 64 64
[WC] Q. Wang (CHN) d [Q] M. Puig (PUR) 63 61

S. Aoyama (JPN) / L. Marozava (BLR) d [1] T. Babos (HUN) / K. Mladenovic (FRA) 62 75
[2] A. Sestini Hlavackova (CZE) / B. Strycova (CZE) d [7] N. Melichar (USA) / K. Peschke (CZE) 75 64
[6] E. Mertens (BEL) / D. Schuurs (NED) d [4] G. Dabrowski (CAN) / Y. Xu (CHN) 64 63
A. Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) / A. Sevastova (LAT) d [WC] Y. Duan (CHN) / Y. Wang (CHN) 75 46 10-5