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Home hero Wang into Wuhan Open semifinals
By sportswriters Spencer Musick and Michael Butterworth
WUHAN, Sept. 27 -- Wang Qiang became the first Chinese tennis player in history to progress to the semifinals of the Wuhan Open, after winning her quarterfinal against Puerto Rico's Monica Puig here on Thursday.
In a tournament which has already witnessed several surprising results, the latest shock came as Wang dispatched Olympic gold medal winner Puig 6-3, 6-1 to the delight of a partisan crowd on center court.
A close first set was followed by a surprisingly one-sided second set in which Wang three times broke Puig's service game, with the Puerto Rican growing visibly more frustrated as the game wore on.
Puig's below-par performance was exemplified by her double-fault on Wang's match point, sealing the match for the Tianjin native in just one hour and eight minutes.
"In the first set [Puig] played very aggressively," said Wang afterwards. "I tried to play more returns to her shots because her strategy would also have greater errors. This is the first time I've made it into the semifinal of a Premier 5 tournament, so I'm very happy today."
Wang now faces Anett Kontaveit, after the Estonian defeated Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-4 in the day's late match.
In a closer game than the scoreline suggests, Kontaveit was very consistent on serve, only being broken once during the match. Though Siniakova managed three aces to Kontaveit's one, the Czech also suffered five double faults, with the Estonian ultimately wrapping up the match in one hour 36 minutes.
The uNPRedictable nature of this year's Wuhan Open meant that 16th seed Ashleigh Barty was the highest ranked player still in the competition at the quarterfinal stage, and the Australian lived up to her billing, defeating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-2, 5-7, 6-4.
Barty made short work of the Russian in the first set, twice breaking serve to close it out in just 34 minutes. But Pavlyuchenkova fought back to force a deciding set, in which Barty broke serve in the critical final game to seal the win in two hours, seven minutes.
Speaking afterwards, Barty acknowledged that it had been a close match. "It could have gone either way. Anastasia came up with a few different tactics so I had to adjust a little bit, but I was happy with the way I managed to look after most of my service games."
Barty will play Aryna Sabalenka in the second semifinal, after the Belarusian defeated Slovakia's Dominika Cibulkova 7-5, 6-3 in one hour 24 minutes.
After a tight first set, Sabalenka broke serve early in the second and was able to keep Cibulkova at arm's length for the remainder of the match, with five aces helping her cause.
In the doubles, Shuko Aoyama and Lidziya Marozava beat Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic 6-2, 7-5. They now face Elise Mertens and Demi Schuurs in the semifinal, after that duo defeated Xu Yifan and Gabriela Dabrowski 6-4, 6-3.
Elsewhere, Pavlyuchenkova and Anastasija Sevastova beat Duan Yingying and Wang Yafan 7-5, 4-6, 10-5 to set up a semifinal with Andrea Sestini Hlavackova and Barbora Strycova, after they defeated Nicole Melichar and Kvetoslava Peschke 7-5, 6-4.