Jie Zheng today became the first Chinese woman ever to make the semi-final of the Australian Open tennis, after she defeated Maria Kirilenko 6-3, 6-1.
While the scoreline seems one-sided, the true story of the match was a more clinical Zheng when it came to break points: Zheng had six break point opportunities, and converted four; Kirilenko had five, and converted none. It is on such tight margins that Grand Slams are won and lost.
As those stats would indicate, the match was a close affair, though Zheng was more ruthless when it counted, and held her nerve well. There were fewer of the errors that were present in her fourth round victory over Ukrainian Alona Bondarenko.
Russian Maria Kirilenko had attracted a lot of support during her run in the tournament, though, of the two players, Zheng has the better world ranking and could arguably have been favourite to win today, though the form Kirilenko had displayed indicated otherwise. Neither player was seeded, reflecting just how open women’s tennis has become of late.
Kirilenko had shocked many by knocking out her compatriot Maria Sharapova in the first round, and she came through against another Russian Safina – the second seed – albeit through retirement, in the fourth round. When called upon today, however, her fitness did not seem to hold out: the trainer was on between the sets for a problem with her right hip, but she appeared to be moving freely enough on court.
Zheng deserved her victory today, and will take to the court in the Rod Laver Arena for the semi-final in the knowledge that she is the first ever Chinese woman to do so.
She faces a stern test in the semi-final where she will face another unseeded player: the returning Justine Henin. On the other side of the draw, the likely finalist and number one seed, Serena Williams also progressed to the semi-final – and has only dropped 15 games in the whole tournament.