MELBOURNE, Australia - No.2 seed Liang En-Shuo became the first player from Chinese Taipei to win a girls' singles title at a Grand Slam on Saturday, as the 17-year-old won the Australian Open title over Clara Burel of France, 6-3, 6-4.
Liang joins Wang Shi-ting, the current Chinese Taipei Fed Cup captain, and current WTA doubles World No.1 Latisha Chan as players from their country to win a junior girls' Grand Slam.
Wang partnered Nicole Pratt to win the girls' doubles title at the French Open in 1989, while Chan parterned Sun Sheng-nan to the girls' title in Melbourne in 2004.
Liang had been stretched to the limit to reach the final over the course of the past week, after needing three sets in four of her five matches to reach the final. The No.2 seed came from a set down in her opening round against Australian wildcard Olivia Gadecki, prevailing in a third-set tiebreak, and later repeated the feat in the third round against Russian Kamilla Rakhimova.
The most dramatic victory for the 17-year-old came in the semifinals, where she saved a pair of match points in the third set against Italy's Elisabetta Cocciaretto, also prevailing in a third-set tiebreak.
There were no such dramatics for Liang on Saturday, as she largely cruised in the match against the unseeded Burel, who had upset three seeds en route to the final, including Liang's compatriot and No.6 seed Joanna Garland and top seed Wang Xinyu, who had also featured in the women's draw by winning the Asia-Pacific Wildcard Playoff, in the semifinals.
"[I feel] like I'm still in a dream. I cannot believe it," Liang said after the match. "It's like a dream [that's] real."
After falling behind a break in the first game of the match, Liang responded straight away to get the opener back on serve, and won four straight games en route to pocketing the opening set.
The No.2 seed largely overwhelmed her unseeded opponent with power in the first set, as she struck 12 winners to the Frenchwoman's four, and won 81% of the points behind her first serve.
In a carbon copy of the first set, Burel broke again in the opening game of the second, but Liang won a trio of games on the trot to wrestle control of the championship match.
The Frenchwoman would not go quietly, however, as she built three break point opportunities to get the match back on serve in the 10th game, thanks in part to increased aggression of her own.
The junior World No.33 hit 15 winners to Liang's nine in the second set, but costly unforced errors - which included four off her forehand in the final game - helped get Liang over the line and her name in the history books.
The current junior World No.5's victory ran her winning streak to 12 straight matches to begin 2018, as she arrived in Melbourne Park having won the AGL Loy Yang Traralgon Junior International, a Grade 1 event in Traralgon, Australia - and the 17-year-old revealed after the final that she'll continue on the junior circuit for the time being.
Added Liang: "After Melbourne, I'll go to more juniors because this year, we have the Youth Olympic Games, so I will try to get into the Youth Olympic Games."
Liang madie it a clean sweep in the doubles final later on Saturday, as she and Wang, the top seeds, defeated No.7 seeds Violet Apisah of Papua New Guinea and Lulu Sun of Switzerland, 7-6(4), 4-6, 10-5.