Melbourne: Zheng Qinwen, the 12th seed from China, etched her name into the annals of tennis history, overcoming a shaky start against the unseeded Anna Kalinskaya 6-7(4) 6-3 6-1, to secure her spot in the first Grand Slam semifinal at the Australian Open 2024.
The match began with a stutter for Zheng, as a series of unforced errors in the first set hinted at the nerves that can accompany such monumental occasions. Kalinskaya, ranked 75th and appearing in her first Grand Slam quarterfinal, seized the opportunity to break back after an early break by Zheng. The set unfolded with exchanged breaks, but it was Kalinskaya who clinched the tiebreak, taking the lead 7-4.
For a set and a half, the spotlight seemed a bit too bright for Zheng, who, despite entering the match as the favorite, found herself making uncharacteristic mistakes. The tension in the air dissipated midway through the second set, as if a switch had been flipped within the 21-year-old’s game.
Suddenly, Zheng’s serve found its rhythm, and her groundstrokes flowed with a newfound confidence. Breaking Kalinskaya at a crucial moment, she unleashed her potential, finishing the set with an ace down the middle. The momentum continued into the third set, where Zheng’s game reached its zenith.
Despite a medical timeout taken by Kalinskaya to address her right hip, Zheng remained unfazed. A backhand return winner gave her the pivotal break for a 2-1 lead, and a subsequent double break left her firmly in control at 4-1. Kalinskaya, grappling to find answers, could only watch as Zheng powered her way to a 5-1 advantage.
In a final flourish, Zheng showcased her prowess with three consecutive aces and thunderous returns, closing out the match in style. The victory not only secured Zheng’s place in the Grand Slam semifinal but also propelled her into the world’s top 10 when the rankings would be updated on Monday.
With this triumph, Zheng Qinwen joined the ranks of esteemed Chinese women in tennis history, becoming the fourth from her country to reach a Grand Slam semifinal. Her predecessors, Zheng Jie, Li Na (Australian Open champion in 2014), and Peng Shuai, paved the way for her, and now, Zheng Qinwen is poised to make her own mark on the grand stage of international tennis. IANS