Wang demolishes Oly champ Puig

Wang Qiang of China returns against Monica Puig of Puerto Rico during their quarterfinal at the WTA Wuhan Open on Thursday. AFP

Rising star Wang Qiang demolished Olympic champion Monica Puig 6-3, 6-1 at the Wuhan Open in China on Thursday, cruising into the semifinals to the delight of the home crowd.

The impressive victory was the 14th on the trot on home soil for Wang, who has said she wants to follow the footsteps of China's two-time Grand Slam winner Li Na.

With the fans firmly behind her, Wang made a breathless start to the match, putting her Puerto Rican challenger on the back foot.

Puig, who came into the quarters with an upset win over world number two Caroline Wozniacki on Wednesday, switched gears and tried a more aggressive approach, but was unable to faze the local favourite.

Wang was even more dominant in the second set and wrapped up the match in just over an hour, having already made history by becoming the first Chinese player to reach the quarterfinals of the Wuhan Open, a WTA Premier 5 tournament.

"Today's win makes me very, very happy," Wang said. "This is the first time I've reached... (these stages) of a Premier 5 tournament."

Wang's impressive run at Wuhan includes a shock victory in the second round over world number seven Karolina Pliskova.

The 26-year-old Tianjin native won her first WTA Tour 250 title at the Jiangxi Open in July, and clinched the Guangzhou Open last week. She also grabbed headlines at the French Open with her straight-sets demolition of Venus Williams.

Earlier, Australia's Ashleigh Barty had to dig deep to overcome Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, beating the Russian 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 to secure her semifinal berth.

In-form Barty is currently ranked 17th in the world, and a strong finish in Wuhan -- where the winner will get 900 points -- could help her inch up the rankings before the end of the season.

Barty started strongly against the 39th-ranked Pavlyuchenkova, taking the first set 6-2, but the Russian did not appear in a mood to give in too easily and made an aggressive recovery to take the second.

But the Aussie, who has been impressive in her run to the final four at Wuhan, then regained her grip on the close encounter.

"I'm lucky to get out of that match," Australia's top-ranked player said. "It was extremely close, could've gone either way, but happy to give myself another opportunity tomorrow."

Barty pulled off one of the upsets of the tournament on Wednesday when she knocked out Wimbledon champion and world number three Angelique Kerber in straight sets.

The 22-year-old Barty said she is looking to sustain that momentum to end 2018 on "the best note possible, whether that is results-based or feelings-based."

She will face Aryna Sabalenka -- who beat Dominika Cibulkova 7-5, 6-3 -- in the semifinal.

 

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Wang demolishes Oly champ Puig

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