‘I couldn’t even see the ball’ … but flu can’t stop China’s Wang Qiang reaching Hong Kong Tennis Open semis
Chinese number three shakes off illness to record shock win against former US Open champion Samantha Stosur and reach semi-finals at Victoria Park
Wang Qiang had laughed uproariously on Thursday when asked about her chances against Samantha Stosur ahead of their quarter-final at the Prudential Hong Kong Tennis Open.
“My body feels not so good today,” Wang said. “I hope I can stay on court tomorrow – I have a cold.”
Not only did the Chinese world number 48 stay on the court, she blew Australian Stosur off it with a surprisingly clinical display in a stunning 7-5, 6-2 win.
With it, the 25-year-old kept alive China’s hopes in the singles draw at Victoria Park, where she will play her first semi-final of the season against Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
At times in a tight first set, Wang looked like she may be forced to become the latest withdrawal from a tournament that has seen nearly all of its top seeds succumb to injury and pull out.
Caroline Wozniacki and Elina Svitolina joined the injury exodus on Thursday, after US Open champion Sloane Stephens and Johanna Konta withdrew ahead of the tournament.
And Wang admitted that she was extremely close to retiring on Friday after just three games when she needed to take a medical timeout.
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“I felt really sick and I could not see the ball, but my coach pushed me a lot,” she told her post-match press conference, laughing again.
Asked if she was glad that he had encouraged her to play on, Wang smiled.
“Not really!” she said. “But there was nothing that I could do.”
She had her temperature and blood pressure checked by the doctor on court before eating some biscuits and deciding to soldier on.
It seemed to do the trick, as she hung in there to keep the first set on serve before breaking Stosur in the 11th game and holding for a one-set lead after 66 minutes.
The Chinese number three then broke 33-year-old Stosur twice in a decidedly shorter second set to seal victory just half an hour later, in front of a partisan Centre Court crowed that roared after every point she won.
It was certainly a shock, all things considered. Stosur may have just returned from an eight-week injury absence for the Asia swing, but she was clicking into top gear, enjoying her deepest run at a tournament since coming back and looking like the tournament favourite given the decimated draw.
Beating a former US Open champion is no small order, either, and Wang seemed more surprised than anyone that she managed to get the job done in the physical state that she was in.
“Yes, because I’m still sick,” she said, clutching a towel around her neck and shoulders as she shivered speaking into the microphone in the media tent.
The plan was to go to bed early and get a good night’s rest. “I hope I can play better tomorrow,” she said.
With a clean bill of health, there could be no stopping her reaching Sunday’s final in this mood.
SATURDAY’S ORDER OF PLAY
Jennifer Brady (US) vs  Daria Gavrilova (Australia)
Wang Qiang (China) vs  Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Russia)
After suitable rest
Lu Jingjing (China) and Wang Qiang (China) vs Monique Adamczak (Australia) and Chang Kai-chen (Taiwan)