Tight turnaround for Zheng in unlikely Open semi-final

Callum Godde |

Zheng Qinwen has only a short recovery time before her Australian Open semi-final clash.
Zheng Qinwen has only a short recovery time before her Australian Open semi-final clash.

Chinese dark horse Zheng Qinwen faces a tight turnaround for her against-the-odds Australian Open semi-final stoush with Ukrainian qualifier Dayana Yastremska.

At 21, Zheng finds herself just two wins away from a remarkable maiden grand slam at Melbourne Park that would emulate the 2014 feat of fellow countrywoman and idol Li Na.

The 12th seed wrapped up the fourth and final spot in the last four of the women’s draw just before 10pm local time on Wednesday with a dogged 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 6-1 win over Russian Anna Kalinskaya.

The late finish left Zheng with less than 24 hours to recover for her showdown with Yastremska, the second of the women’s semi-finals scheduled for Rod Laver Arena on Thursday night.

Bound for the world’s top 10 regardless of result, the Chinese rising star indicated the short recovery window would not leave her much time for reflection.

“I don’t know if you can improve in less than 24 hours,” said Zheng.

“Basically I’ll be just trying to recovery and think about what I have to do for the next match … there is nothing I can change too much in 24 hours, right? 

“So just keep simple and let’s go for it.”

About eight hours earlier, Yastremska became the first qualifier to make the semi-finals at Melbourne Park since 1978 following a straight-sets win over Czech teenager Linda Noskova.

She took the opportunity to scribble an emotional tribute on a courtside camera to soldiers back in her war-torn homeland after notching the most significant win of her career.

“I always try to write something for Ukraine, about Ukraine,” she said.

“It’s my mission here.”

Defending Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka will lock horns with reigning US Open winner and world No.4 Coco Gauff in the earlier blockbuster semi-final.

Bidding to become the first woman to win back-to-back Open crowns since fellow Belarusian Victoria Azarenka in 2012/13, Sabalenka is riding a 12-match winning streak at Melbourne Park.

Gauff has also won her past 12 grand slam matches, meaning something must give on Thursday night.

* 12-ZHENG QINWEN (CHN) v DAYANA YASTREMSKA (UKR) – first meeting

ZHENG QINWEN

Age: 21

Ranking: 15

Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)

Career prize money: $US2,935,768

Career titles: 2

Grand slam titles: 0

Australian Open win-loss record: 7-2

Best Australian Open result: semi-finalist 2024

DAYANA YASTREMSKA 

Age: 23

Ranking: 93

Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)

Career prize money: $US3,255,888

Career titles: 3

Grand slam titles: 0

Australian Open win-loss record: 8-4

Best Australian Open result: semi-finalist 2024

AAP