China's 'Queen Wen' on cloud nine after making Australian Open final

She is the first Chinese player to reach the final at Melbourne Park since her idol Li Na, who won the tournament in 2014

By Reuters

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China's Qinwen Zheng celebrates winning her semifinal match against Ukraine's Dayana Yastremska. — Reuters
China's Qinwen Zheng celebrates winning her semifinal match against Ukraine's Dayana Yastremska. — Reuters

Published: Thu 25 Jan 2024, 6:27 PM

Zheng Qinwen coasted past Ukrainian qualifier Dayana Yastremska on Thursday to become the first Chinese finalist in a decade at the Australian Open, setting up a decider against defending champion Aryna Sabalenka.

The 12th seed, heading into the world's top 10 in next week's updated rankings, delivered a controlled performance on Rod Laver Arena to win 6-4, 6-4 in one hour 42 minutes.

She is the first Chinese player to reach the final at Melbourne Park since her idol Li Na, who won the tournament in 2014.

"I'm super excited to have such a great performance today and arrive in the final," said the 21-year-old, who had previously never been beyond the quarterfinals at a Grand Slam.

"My opponent was playing unbelievable tennis and had a really good baseline stroke. It is tough to explain my feelings now."

Yastremska, the Ukrainian, was attempting to become just the second qualifier to reach a Grand Slam final in the Open Era, after Emma Raducanu at Flushing Meadows in 2021.

Meanwhile, defending champion Sabalenka, who returned to the Melbourne Park final with a battling 7-6(2) 6-4 win over fourth seed Coco Gauff just four months after losing to the American in the US Open title clash, said her experience would help her to focus on the challenge and avoid feeling too emotional.

The big-hitting second seed said she would view the final against Zheng as just another match.

"I'd say emotionally I'll be very ready to fight. Not going crazy," Sabalenka told reporters. "Because when you play your first final you get emotional and rush things sometimes.

"When you're third time in the finals, you're like, OK, it's a final. It's OK. It's just another match.

"You're able to separate yourself from that thing. Just focus on your game."

Sabalenka has the opportunity to become the first woman to claim back-to-back Australian Open trophies since Belarusian compatriot Victoria Azarenka in 2012 and 2013.

"I'm defending champion, but worst case, I'm like OK, I'm going to lose this tournament and it's less points to defend next year. Then that's it," she said.

"That's helping me to just stay focused and just try my best in each match without thinking about defending something."


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