China’s Zheng Qinwen moves to fourth round after win over Wang Yafan

Ten years on from Li Na’s historic win at the Australian Open, China’s Zheng Qinwen is making waves at Melbourne Park.

The 21-year-old 12th seed is considered one of the rising stars of the game and she is now the favourite to reach the semi-finals in a wide open section of the draw.

Zheng needed two hours and 40 minutes to make it past countrywoman Wang Yafan 6-4 2-6 7-6 (10/8) on Friday as China took centre stage on Rod Laver Arena.

But her power hitting eventually got her over the line, and there was a special treat after the match when she was congratulated by Li, who is here to play in the legends event.

“That was totally a surprise for me,” said Zheng. “She just went to me, say congratulations. I was feeling super happy to meet her and have the chance to talk with her because I never talked with her in person.

“She said to me don’t think too much, just keep simple. I think that’s right now what I need to do as well.”

Zheng revealed in her on-court interview that she had watched Li’s final victory over Dominika Cibulkova here in 2014 10 times.

Zheng Qinwen plays a backhand
Zheng Qinwen plays a backhand (Andy Wong/AP)

There is a growing number of Chinese players, both men and women, pushing towards the top of the game, but Zheng is at the head of the queue.

In the last 16, she will take on Oceane Dodin, who defeated fellow unseeded French player Clara Burel 6-2 6-4 to reach the fourth round at a slam for the first time.

One of Zheng, Dodin, 26th seed Jasmine Paolini and Russian Anna Kalinskaya is guaranteed to make a first slam semi-final.

Paolini ended the run of Anna Blinkova, who knocked out Elena Rybakina in round two, while Kalinskaya beat former finalist Sloane Stephens 6-7 (8) 6-1 6-4.

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