Wang packs off Olympic champ to reach semis at Wuhan Open

AFP
Rising star Wang Qiang demolished Olympic champion Monica Puig 6-3, 6-1 at the Wuhan Open in central China yesterday, cruising into the semifinals to the delight of the home crowd.
AFP
AFP

Wang Qiang of China hits a return to Monica Puig of Puerto Rico during her 6-3, 6-1 semifinal victory at the WTA Wuhan Open in Wuhan, central China’s Hubei Province, yesterday.

Rising star Wang Qiang demolished Olympic champion Monica Puig 6-3, 6-1 at the Wuhan Open in central China yesterday, cruising into the semifinals to the delight of the home crowd.

The impressive victory was the 14th on the trot on home soil for Wang. With the fans firmly behind her, Wang made a breathless start to the match, winning four games in a row and putting her Puerto Rican challenger on the back foot.

Puig, who came into the quarters with an upset win over world No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki on Wednesday, switched gears and tried a more aggressive approach, but was unable to faze the local favorite.

“After 4-0, she played more aggressively, made fewer errors,” Wang said. “I adjusted my position and tried to be more offensive and less passive.”

Wang was even more dominant in the second set and wrapped up the match in just over an hour, having already made history by becoming the first Chinese player to reach the quarterfinals of the Wuhan Open, a WTA Premier 5 tournament, in Hubei Province.

“Today’s win makes me very, very happy,” she said.

Wang’s impressive run at Wuhan includes a shock victory in the second round over world No. 7 Karolina Pliskova.

She will take on Anett Kontaveit — the Estonian knocked out Czech Katerina Siniakova 6-4, 6-4 — in today’s semifinal.

The 26-year-old Tianjin native won her first WTA Tour 250 title at the Jiangxi Open in July, and clinched the Guangzhou Open last week. She also grabbed headlines at the French Open with her straight-sets demolition of Venus Williams.

Earlier, Australia’s Ashleigh Barty had to dig deep to overcome Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 to secure her semifinal berth.

Barty is currently ranked 17th in the world, and a strong finish in Wuhan — where the winner will get 900 points — could help her inch up the rankings before the end of the season.

Barty started strongly against the 39th-ranked Pavlyuchenkova, taking the first set 6-2, but the Russian did not appear in a mood to give in too easily and made an aggressive recovery to take the second.

But the Australian, who has been impressive in her run to the final four, then regained her grip on the close encounter.

“I’m lucky to get out of that match,” Australia’s top-ranked player said. “It was extremely close, could’ve gone either way, but happy to give myself another opportunity tomorrow.”

Barty, 22, pulled off one of the upsets of the tournament on Wednesday when she knocked out Wimbledon champion and world No. 3 Angelique Kerber.

She will face Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka — who downed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia 7-5, 6-3 — in the semifinal.

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