HUA HIN, Thailand – Teenage qualifier Leonie Kung overcame trying weather conditions to secure a stunning 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 victory over No.3 seed Wang Qiang and move into the semifinals of the GSB Thailand Open presented by E@.
Having scored her first Top 100 win on Wednesday as she defeated Zhu Lin in the second round, the 19-year-old showed maturity and a cool head to better master the blustery conditions and reach the final four at the expense of the WTA World No.27.
Playing in just her second main draw of a WTA Tour event, the WTA World No.283 won in three see-saw sets in two hours 18 minutes.
“I really tried to stay calm,” she said. “I’m so happy. I’ve worked so hard for this and I’m living my dream now. I’m really enjoying it.”
The match started with the Swiss breaking the Wang serve off the back of a run of unforced errors, the type of which would be regularly replicated throughout in a blustery wind that was blowing across the court and making life challenging for both players.
After exchanging early breaks, the match held little pattern, with both players hitting cheap mistakes interspersed with some powerful winners.
Wang’s experience, however, seemed set to tell as she moved a break up at 5-3, yet serving for the set she was unable to close it out after moving 30-15 up.
Heartened by this let off, Kung set about winning four successive games, with her level rising as the set reached its climax. A particularly fine pass helped her to 6-5, and from there she was nerveless as she served out to get the opener on the board.
The second set proved every bit as topsy-turvy as the first, with Wang falling a break behind before responding with a stunning backhand down the line to level up.
The Chinese strung together three games in succession but just could not shake off her doughty rival, who broke rapidly back on terms.
But where Wang had faded towards the end of the first, she came to prominence in the second. Although two break points were missed in the eighth game, the second owing to a searing Jung backhand, the set was sealed at the next opportunity.
She was not, however, able to carry this momentum into the decider, which saw Kung break in the very first game as Wang tamely netted a backhand. By contrast, the former junior Wimbledon finalist sent a powerful backhand down the line to grind out a tough hold to move 2-0 up and take a firm grasp on the match.
Service holds remained precious commodities, as Kung discovered when she was broken having just earned an insurance break, but she responded by brilliantly holding twice to love, setting up a final-four date with Nao Hibino.