New York | Chinese win through while Sabalenka survives Kanepi

There is a quartet of Chinese players making waves at the US Open this year, with Zheng Qinwen and Yuan Yue joining compatriots Wang Xiyu and Zhang Shuai in the 3rd round on Thursday, which is the first time in history that 4 women from China have reached the last 32 at any Grand Slam.

 

I always say that Slam is one of my dreams since I was little, so every time when I arrive here, I will leave everything I have on the court. Zheng Qinwen

“So it’s, like, five,” Zheng said, referring to Wu Yibing, who became the first Chinese man to ever advance to the 3rd round of a major. “I think this is so positive. In China, the tennis starts to go up.”

19-year old Zheng, who caught the eye in Paris this year and has risen to No 39 in the world, held her nerve to defeat Russia’s Anastasia Potapova, 7-6(4) 7-6(3), to set up a 3rd round clash with Germany’s Jule Niemeier, who was a 6-4 6-3 winner over Yulia Putintseva from Kazakstan.

Zheng has flourished in her first season, reaching the 2nd-round of the Australian Open before advancing to the 4th-round of the French Open and then the 3rd-round at Wimbledon.

“I think, between each other, we have good competition between each other,” Zheng added. “When you have someone to compete [with], you always can [perform] better.

“I think with this energy, I hope all of us, we can go as far as we can. Such good performance here, I’m happy for all of them.”

Zheng said her consistency at the Grand Slams this year is the result of hard work on the practice court, combined with her dogged determination to succeed.

“I always say that Slam is one of my dreams since I was little,” she said. “So every time when I arrive here, I will leave everything I have on the court.”

After beating Jelena Ostapenko, and now Potapova, Zheng is a real threat, as the champions of the past two majors, Iga Swiatek at Roland Garros and Elena Rybakina at Wimbledon, discovered on the way to their respective titles when the teenager took them the distance.

She has already notched up marquee wins against Simona Halep on clay at Roland Garros and Bianca Andreescu and Ons Jabeur in Toronto while, at Wimbledon, Zheng rued a missed opportunity against Rybakina to go up a late break and beat the eventual champion.

Swiatek again looms as a potential roadblock for Zheng, who could face the World No 1 in the 4th round, but first she will be ready for Niemeier.


Yue Yuan scored an impressive win over Irina-Camelia Begu in New York on Thursday to reach the 3rd-round

© Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Meanwhile, qualifier Yuan, aged 23, matched Zheng’s achievement with a hard-fought 6-3 7-6(6) defeat of Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu on her US Open debut, and will face American No 1 Jessica Pegula on Saturday for a place in the last 16.

Yuan, who lost just 18 games in her 3 qualifying matches, has not dropped a set in 5 wins.

On Wednesday, Wang, a 21-year old, produced a stunning upset to send 3rd seed Maria Sakkari of Greece tumbling out of the tournament, winning 3-6 7-5 7-5, and giving the left-hander the honour of scoring the biggest upset of the tournament’s first two rounds.

Zhang, the veteran of the group at the age of 33, who boasts 2 Grand Slam singles quarter-finals and 2 major doubles titles among a litany of career accomplishments, took out Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, 7-5 6-1, also on Wednesday.

While Chinese women’s tennis has enjoyed increasing success over the past decade, with Li Na famously becoming the first player from Asia to win Grand Slam singles at the French Open in 2011 and the Australian Open in 2014, never before have so many women from China advanced to the 3rd-round of the same tournament.


Aryna Sabalenka made an extraordinary comeback against Kaia Kanepi, who lost the plot and squandered 2 match points amongst her many chances to cause an upset of the No 6 seed

© Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Elsewhere, Aryna Sabalenka, the 6th seed from Belarus, navigated her way past the tricky Kaia Kanepi, after the Estonian romped through the opening set and much of the next in what looked like would become a major upset.

The 37-year old is renowned as a giant-killer and while she steam-rolled through the first set and was up 5-1 in the second, the match out on Court 5 turned into a dramatic turn-around when Kanepi suddenly lost her nerve and the plot, allowing Sabalenka back into the contest by surrendering the next 5 games in a row.

The Estonian collapsed again in the tiebreak, squandering a 5-2 advantage and 2 match points.

Both ditched their nerves in the decider, and it was the more assertive 6th seed who seized the momentum and the match, 2-6 7-6(8) 6-4, although the Belarusian threw in 3 double-faults as she served for the match before advancing on her 3rd match point after 2 hours and 15 minutes,.

Both ditched their nerves in the decider, and it was the more assertive 6th seed who seized the momentum and the match, 2-6 7-6(8) 6-4, although the Belarusian threw in 3 double-faults as she served for the match before advancing on her 3rd match point after 2 hours and 15 minutes,.

It was a bruising battle between two towering ball-strikers at 5-foot-11 apiece, who slammed groundstrokes at each other throughout but, when all was said and done, Kanepi haad won more points, had more winners, and fired fewer unforced errors than Sabalenka, but the Belarusian stood taller at key moments down the stretch, converting her lone break point of the 3rd set, while Kanepi was 0-for-3 during that timeframe.

Sabalenka is a two-time Grand Slam semi-finalist, including at the 2021 US Open, where she is now 12-4, while the former World No 2 has 10 career titles, but has yet to advance to a major final.

She suddenly finds herself in a wide-open section of the draw, decimated by the defeats of last year’s champion Emma Raducanu and two-time winner Naomi Osaka.

Opportunity awaits, with 19th seed Danielle Collins, the only seed standing in the way of a quarter-final appearance, after the American saw off Cristina Bucsa from Spain, 6-2 7-5.

Surviving after coughing up 11 double-faults and 41 unforced errors, Sabalenka won 7 fewer points than Kanepi, and is now set to meet France’s Clara Burel, who was a 6-4 4-6 6-4 winner over Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck.

In the 3rd-round, Collins takes on another Frenchwoman, Alizé Cornet, who battled for 2 hours and 3 minutes with former doubles World No 1, Katerina Siniakova from Czech Republic, before winning through, 6-1 1-6 7-5.


The drama unfolded between Aryna Sabalenka and Kaia Kanepi on Court 5

© Jamie Squire/Getty Images


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