Australian Open: Qinwen Zheng ends Dayana Yastremska’s hopes of matching Emma Raducanu feat

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Qinwen Zheng is bidding to reach her first grand slam final - Eloisa Lopez/Reuters

Qinwen Zheng will face Aryna Sabalenka in the Australian Open final after defeating qualifier Dayana Yastremska 6-4, 6-4.

Yastremska was trying to emulate Emma Raducanu by reaching a grand slam final as a qualifier but she came out second best in a big-hitting encounter.

Zheng, who has not yet faced a top-50 opponent, is the first Chinese player to make it to a slam decider since Li Na won the title here a decade ago.

The two players swapped breaks early on before Zheng took charge to lead 4-3. Yastremska then took a medical timeout off court for an abdominal issue and returned after around seven minutes. Nevertheless, Zheng kept her head to wrap up the set.

In the second set, the players exchanged breaks again before Zheng broke again in the seventh game and consolidated the break to lead 5-3.

Yastremska threatened a fightback but an unreturnable serve on match point sealed the win for Zheng.

“Of course this is special, it is my first real time,” she said. “Li Na won here as well. So it can’t be more special than here in the Australian Open.

“We have a lot of Chinese fans supporting me in the stadium. It feels like I’m playing in China.”

12:46 PM GMT

WATCH: The winning moment for Zheng

12:37 PM GMT

Yastremska 4-6, 4-6 Zheng

Here we go then. Yastremska makes Zheng play an extra ball at the net and she pushes the volley long, 0-15. Let off for Zheng after Yastremska nets a forehand.

The Ukrainian then hits another loose shot, this time on the backhand wing, 30-15. Second serve by Zheng is blasted away for a backhand return winner, 30-30. Big point coming up.

Second serve Zheng... Yastremska goes after it but pushes her backhand into the tramlines. Match point.

GAME SET MATCH ZHENG! Big serve down the T is unreturned by Yastremska and Zheng wins. A brilliant serve to finish.

12:32 PM GMT

Yastremska 4-6, 4-5 Zheng*

Yastremska does what she needs to do by holding serve to 15 and asks the question of Zheng: can you serve the match out for a place in a grand slam final?

We’ll find out soon...

12:29 PM GMT

Yastremska* 4-6, 3-5 Zheng

It’s not a break of serve unless you can consolidate it and Zheng puts herself in a great position to do that by moving serenely to 40-0.

Yastremska stays in the game when Zheng can’t get her forehand volley over the net, 40-15. But she moves a big step closer to the finish line when Yastremska nets a backhand to concede the game.

12:26 PM GMT

Yastremska 4-6, 3-4 Zheng*

Relentless pressure on the Yastremska serve from Zheng. The 12th seed will be desperate to break here and she earns three break points.

The two players go toe-to-toe but eventually Yastremska falters first and Zheng breaks for the second time in this set.

12:23 PM GMT

Yastremska* 4-6, 3-3 Zheng

Best game of the match from Zheng as she holds to love in 80 seconds. Pressure put right back on Yastremska.

12:19 PM GMT

Yastremska 4-6, 3-2 Zheng*

Yastremska fights back from 0-30 to 30-all. Then moves in front with a flat forehand winner down the line, 40-30.

The quality of this match is rising and Yastremska gets her nose in front when Zheng sends a forehand long on the run.

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Dayana Yastremska in action - Shutterstock/Mast Irham

12:14 PM GMT

Yastremska* 4-6, 2-2 Zheng

Back comes Yastremska. Zheng can’t buy a first serve in this game and that allows Yastremska to go after the serve.

Yastremska earns two break points. Zheng saves the first then the second when Yastremska puts a backhand return long, deuce.

Yastremska gets a third break point with a brilliant angled forehand winner. But again, Zheng finds her first serve when it matters most and Yastremska’s return goes long.

Second serve of Zheng continues to be punished by Yastremska, who hits a backhand winner to create a fourth break point.

And finally she gets it. Another short Zheng second serve gets the treatment it deserves from Yastremska, who pounds a return deep and Zheng’s forehand reply goes into the net.

12:06 PM GMT

Yastremska 4-6, 1-2 Zheng*

Yastremska under the cosh again finds herself three break points down. Yastremska saves the first but not the second.

Zheng times her forehand return impeccably with the ball landing right on the baseline, leaving Yastremska little time to react and the Ukrainian nets a backhand.

Early break goes the way of Zheng.

12:04 PM GMT

Yastremska* 4-6, 1-1 Zheng

Zheng needs just 100 seconds to hold serve to love. Given the occasion, she has kept her head very impressively.

Well-balanced, composed and deceptively quick.

12:00 PM GMT

Second set: Yastremska 4-6, 1-0 Zheng*

Yastremska and Zheng both leave the court for a change of clothes and a refresh.

When play resumes, Zheng quickly takes control and puts Yastremska under the cosh. The Ukrainian is forced to dig deep, come up with some big serves and hold to 30.

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Qinwen Zheng won the first set - Getty Images/Julian Finney

11:49 AM GMT

Yastremska* 4-6 Zheng

Timely ace from Zheng to move to 30-15. But then she strikes a backhand into the tramlines. Big point coming up here.

Big first serve down the T by Zheng and Yastremska can’t get the ball back into play, set point. Yastremska forehand wide and Zheng takes the opening set.

11:45 AM GMT

Yastremska 4-5 Zheng*

If the injury issue was a major one for Yastremska, it doesn’t look like it at the moment as she holds to love with a forehand winner.

11:42 AM GMT

Yastremska* 3-5 Zheng

Yastremska was feeling her abdominal area and after receiving an assessment, she leaves the court for a medical timeout.

After over seven minutes since the last point, Yastremska returns and the match resumes. And on the opening point, Zheng double faults. That rhythm she had might be lost.

Zheng does respond to her credit, moving to 40-15 after three errors in a row from Yastremska. Yastremska’s movement seems to be OK and she rifles a forehand return down the line to make it deuce.

Out of nowhere, Yastremska times a forehand return perfectly and the ball goes away for a winner, break point. Yastremska is the aggressor again but Zheng shows great defence to stay in the rally and Yastremska makes the forehand error.

Yastremska approaches in Zheng’s forehand, the 12th seed hits her backhand pass at the feet of Yastremska, who nets her attempted volley.

11:29 AM GMT

Yastremska 3-4 Zheng*

Zheng arrived at the party folks. She starts the game with a forehand winner then hits a brilliant cross court backhand winner, 0-30.

She drags Yastremska all over the court and forces her to put a forehand into the net, three break points. Yastremska grimaces as she walks over to her towel.

Yastremska saves two break points after return errors from Zheng. And the third when Zheng nets a backhand. Good fightback by Yastremska.

Yastremska is stretched out wide by Zheng again and the error follows, fourth break point.

Yastremska backhand long and Zheng breaks. As Yastremska walks to her chair, she asks the umpire to call for the trainer.

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Dayana Yastremska was feeling discomfort in her abdominal area - Reuters/Edgar Su

11:22 AM GMT

Yastremska* 3-3 Zheng

Seeing some extended rallies now and they are starting to go Yastremska’s way. On this occasion, Zheng goes long with a forehand, 0-30. But responds by guiding a beautiful backhand up the line for a winner, 15-30.

Zheng moves 40-30 ahead when she follows up a big serve with a forehand winner. And she holds when Yastremska nets a backhand return.

11:18 AM GMT

Yastremska 3-2 Zheng*

First meaningful rally of the match, 13 shots and Yastremska comes out on top when Zheng puts a forehand into the tramlines, 40-0. And she holds when Zheng’s forehand return goes long.

Both players still searching for the best. Nerves clearly playing a part early on.

11:15 AM GMT

Yastremska* 2-2 Zheng

Zheng gets back on track with a love service hold in one minute 39 seconds.

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Ukraine's Dayana Yastremska hits a return - Getty Images/Martin Keep

11:12 AM GMT

Yastremska 2-1 Zheng*

Just when it looked as though Yastremska would take charge of the set, two double faults and a forehand error means Zheng has three break points.

Yastremska saves the first. Then the second with an ace. A third? Yes, she can. Big serve down the T is unreturned by Zheng.

Fourth break point for Zheng now and she breaks back after a fourth double fault of the game from Yastremska. Bizarre service game.

11:05 AM GMT

Yastremska* 2-0 Zheng

Yastremska is looking to go after Zheng’s second serve here and fires a backhand cross court for a winner, 15-30. Then off the backfoot she rifles a backhand down the line for a winner, 15-40. Zheng has yet to find a first serve up to this point.

But she discovers it to save the first break point. And the second when Yastremska nets a forehand return, deuce.

Zheng backhand into the net, break point Yastremska. Another first serve into play by Zheng and Yastremska’s return is long.

Third break point for Yastremska after Zheng double faults. Yastremska gets the ball she wants as Zheng’s forehand lands short but Yastremska nets a mid-court backhand, deuce.

Fourth chance to break for Yastremska after a backhand winner. Deep, heavy hitting from Yastremska is too much for Zheng, who finally succumbs when she nets a backhand.

Yastremska breaks.

10:58 AM GMT

First set: Dayana Yastremska 1-0 Qinwen Zheng*

Just the start Yastremska would have wanted as she moves to 40-0 when Zheng nets a backhand. And she holds serve to 30 with an ace.

10:52 AM GMT

Here we go!

Moments after Sabalenka booked herself in Saturday’s women’s final, Yastremska vs Zheng walk onto court for their first-ever meeting.

10:48 AM GMT

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10:41 AM GMT

Written in the stars for Yastremska

10:39 AM GMT

An omen for Zheng Qinwen

10:24 AM GMT

Will Yastremska 'do a Raducanu'?

Good morning and welcome to coverage of the second Australian Open women’s semi-final of the day between Dayana Yastremska and Qinwen Zheng.

Before the tournament started few would have expected these two players would be competing for a place in the final but here we are and it should be very finely poised.

Yastremska is the first women’s qualifier to reach the last four in Melbourne since 1978 and admits she didn’t think she would reach this stage.

”I didn’t think about it,” she said. “I came here, and I was just focusing on playing each match, on improving. I was working on some things that is a little bit, like, personal, you know. It was more associating with my head and with the way I feel on court. I wasn’t really putting the goal, you know, to go quarters, fourth round, semis or whatever. I was just trying to enjoy playing here. I don’t really feel like I’m playing good, I just try to play like I can because I’m really tired.

”I’m trying to take the maximum that I can from myself and the rest is just fight.”

Zheng, the WTA’s most improved player of 2023, will break into the world’s top 10 after the tournament and says she is proud of what she’s accomplished.

”There was a lot of meaning inside because everyone know what’s happened past years for me, a lot of ups and downs, and finally that I really can break through,” she said. “And then to arrive here as my real first time, I mean, the feeling is just -- I can’t explain by word right now, because there were so many inside.

”I mean, happiness. Of course I’m proud of myself. Yeah, but, you know, this is just the beginning. I still need to play tomorrow. So I need to change fast the mentality and trying to stay my game plan for tomorrow (smiling).”

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