SEOUL – Top-seeded Jessica Pegula overcame a first-set misstep to post a 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 win over Claire Liu in the quarter-finals of the Hana Bank Korea Open in Seoul.
Pegula is bidding to win her fourth title of the season. She hopes to continue her quest when she faces Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer, who recorded a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Polina Kudermetova of Russia.
Also, Zheng Qinwen’s revenge tour continued at the Bank of Communications Zhengzhou Open, where she defeated Anhelina Kalinina 6-3, 6-2 in 1 hour and 26 minutes to reach her first semi-final on home soil.
For the second match in a row, the 21-year-old Chinese player faced an opponent against whom she had a 0-2 record.
For the second match in a row, she turned the tables emphatically, backing up her second-round upset of No.3 seed Maria Sakkari with another straight-sets win.
Zheng’s losses to Kalinina had both come before either player had cracked the Top 100, with the Ukrainian winning a pair of clay-court ITF semi-finals in Montpellier and Contrexeville in 2021.
Two years on, both have established themselves firmly inside the Top 30.
No.24-ranked Zheng demonstrated how far her aggressive game has come, keeping on the front foot by slamming down 32 winners — including eight aces — to only 20 unforced errors.
Nine of those winners came in one remarkable pivotal game in the second set. As Kalinina served at 1-1, Zheng piled the pressure on with relentless returning.
Zheng denied No.28-ranked Kalinina six points to hold, navigated through 12 deuces and eventually took her seventh break point, slamming a return at Kalinina’s feet to force a backhand error.
From there, she cruised to the finishing line to book her place in a third semifinal of 2023, and third of her career at WTA 500 level.
In the last four, Zheng will face a rematch of July’s Palermo final against Jasmine Paolini.
The World No.31 defeated Laura Siegemund 6-0, 7-5 in 1 hour and 44 minutes, winning the first nine games in a row before needing to hold off a late charge by the German qualifier.
Three months ago, Zheng claimed her maiden Hologic WTA Tour title by defeating Paolini on the Italian’s home soil.
Having powered into her first WTA 500 semi-final, Paolini now gets a chance to take revenge on Zheng’s home court.
No.7 seed Barbora Krejcikova also advanced to the semifinals after qualifier Lesia Tsurenko retired trailing 6-3 due to mid back pain.
Elsewhere, Leylah Fernandez broke a 19-month drought in which she had not reached a tour-level semi-final at the Prudential Hong Kong Tennis Open, defeating Linda Fruhvirtova 7-6(2), 6-2 in the quarter-finals.
The Canadian has experienced fluctuating health and results ever since reaching the 2021 US Open final in the week she turned 19.
The following year, Fernandez made her second Grand Slam quarter-final at Roland Garros — but sustained a foot injury at that tournament which derailed her momentum.
This June, less than a year after hitting her career-high ranking of No.13, Fernandez found herself in danger of falling out of the Top 100 as she fell to No.96.
A run to the Guadalajara quarter-finals last month was cause for optimism, but coming into Hong Kong, she had not made a semifinal since winning her second career title in Monterrey in March 2022.
But the 21-year-old feels she’s on the right track again here, particular after defeating two highly-rated teenagers in Fruhvirtova and, one round previously, Mirra Andreeva.
“First semi-final in a long time,” she said after her quarterfinal win. “Getting these wins is extra special given what’s been going on these past few years. I’m happy with the way I fought, the way I found solutions. I’m finally finding my game once again.”
Those solutions have been centered around a commitment to coming forwards whenever possible. Against Andreeva, Fernandez won 17 of her 27 net approaches. That statistic was even better against Fruhvirtova as she claimed 16 net points out of 20, an effective strategy against a rock-solid opponent who only committed six unforced errors.