HUA HIN, Thailand - No.3 seed Wang Qiang moved into her second quarterfinal of 2020 at the GSB Thailand Open presented by E@ with a 6-3, 6-4 defeat of Katarzyna Kawa in one hour and 30 minutes.
Wang opened her season with a quarterfinal run in Shenzhen, and has now won at least two matches in three of the four tournaments she has contested - including a run to the last 16 at the Australian Open that featured an eyecatching upset of Serena Williams. Today, the Chinese No.1's solidity on serve was key to navigating past a valiant opponent she was facing for the first time, notching up a 77% winning percentage behind her first serve.
Both players took some time to find their groove, with the opening stages of the match decided more by unforced errors than winners. Kawa would struggle more on serve, though, offering up a double fault in all of her first three service games and facing at least one break point in each as a result. The Pole, who reached the final of Jurmala last July on her WTA main draw debut, showed resilience to hold on to two of those - but the loss of the first on a long forehand after a four-deuce tussle meant that she would always be chasing Wang in the first set.
Wang may not have been as sharp in taking her opportunities as she had been in the first round against compatriot Han Xinyun, but she showed no sign in relinquishing her lead. The former World No.12 did not face a break point in the opening set while constantly asking questions on return with her superior weight of shot, the off forehand proving particularly effective.
At 5-3, Wang upped the ante, bringing her forehand to bear to threaten another break of the Kawa serve - and though the 27-year-old fended off the second set point against her with a truly spectacular rally, turning impossible defence around and finishing with a blazing forehand winner, her errors continued to be her undoing: Kawa immediately followed that highlight with two cheap mistakes to seal the set for Wang.
More careless errors from the World No.128 would see her fall behind an immediate break in the second set as well - but nonetheless, her shotmaking was improving as she threw caution to the wind to pull off several bold winners, such as a brilliant clean backhand slice winner in the fourth game. Kawa was rewarded with a first break of the Wang serve in the following game as she pulled back from 0-3 to 3-3.
The closing stages of the match would become rather scrappy once more: Kawa, unable to sustain this level, threw in another error-strewn game featuring her fifth double fault of the day to lose serve for 3-5; but, serving for the match, Wang repaid her opponent in kind, coughing up her first two double faults of the day before Kawa broke back with a forehand winner off a net cord. Wang kept her focus, though, drawing on her big-match experience to find another gear with her groundstrokes at 5-4. Blitzing her forehand to carve out a match point, the US Open quarterfinalist seized her first chance as a raking crosscourt backhand drew a Kawa error.
Wang will face 19-year-old qualifier Leonie Kung in the quarterfinals after the 2018 Wimbledon girls' finalist stunned No.7 seed Zhu Lin 6-3, 6-1 to score both her maiden Top 100 win and her first WTA quarterfinal in just her second main draw. Elsewhere, though, No.4 seed Zheng Saisai navigated past another former junior standout qualifier, defeating 2018 Australian Open girls' champion Liang En-Shuo 6-4, 6-3, while No.8 seed Nao Hibino dismissed local lucky loser Peangtarn Plipuech 6-0, 6-1 in just 53 minutes.