ZHUHAI, China - Wang Qiang made good on her second chance to enter the semifinals at the 2018 Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai, and she used it to power into the final after a stunning win over Garbine Muguruza in straight sets.
Wang replaced Madison Keys at the eleventh hour, after the American who won the Azalea Group was forced to withdraw due to a left knee injury. The Chinese player recovered strongly to notch a comprehensive 6-2, 6-0 win, claiming eleven games in a row over the two-time Grand Slam champion.
“I was planning to leave this morning because I was second place in my group,” Wang recalled in her post-match press conference, referencing her suddenly-derailed vacation plans. “Then I was notified today I had to compete and also I'm going to play tomorrow, so actually I couldn't go even go tomorrow.”
She added, “I wasn't really ready to have another match. But when I was aware that I needed to play at night, I suddenly tried to recall what was it like back in Hong Kong when we had this match. I calmed down. And I actually thought I have a chance to win over her.
“I think I did pretty well today, and she's not really doing well today.”
Her victory marks a historic first for the host country, becoming the first Chinese player to reach the final in Zhuhai. The previous best result was Zhang Shuai’s semifinal showing in 2016.
Wang played her signature ultra-aggressive game to outrally Muguruza, and was rewarded early after prevailing in an 11-minute game full of lengthy rallies at 3-2, converting her third break point to take the early lead.
Losing that game seemed to deflate Muguruza - she had three chances to close it out, and they all went begging - and Wang capitalized on the loss of form, reeling off five games in a row to power through the set.
The Chinese player’s strong serving kept her in front - she hit seven aces total and won 62% of points behind her first serve - and she quickly notched back-to-back breaks to take a 3-0 lead. She steamrolled through the rest of the set as Muguruza’s frustration continued to mount, and Wang closed out the match after an hour and 13 minutes without dropping another game.
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Today’s victory also extends Wang’s impressive winning record on home soil to 19-4, including titles at Nanchang and Guangzhou and semifinals at Wuhan and Beijing. And even sweeter: she’s guaranteed to book herself a spot inside the WTA’s Top 20, rising from her current career high of World No.22.
Up next, she’ll take on Ashleigh Barty, a fellow first-time Zhuhai finalist, for a chance to add this trophy to her haul. Wang trails Barty 0-1 in the pair’s head-to-head record after falling in straight sets against the Australian in Strasbourg earlier this year.
“I think she's a very smart player,” Wang said. “We played once and I lost at that time. She's a very smart player and she knows how to change her strategies and she has a lot of variety in her serve.
“Tomorrow what I'll do is do my best and not think too much on the result. It's already a miracle for me to stand on the court. So what I'll do is I'll just relax tomorrow.”