Prudential Hong Kong Tennis Open

Hong Kong Open: Elina Svitolina saved by rain with Wang Qiang closing on biggest win of career

China No 1 was cruising to straight sets quarter-final victory against world No 5 before sudden rain showers see match suspended overnight

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 October, 2018, 9:22pm
UPDATED : Friday, 12 October, 2018, 11:15pm

Wang Qiang was just three points away from what would have been the biggest win of her career against Elina Svitolina at the Prudential Hong Kong Tennis Open before heavy rain saw their quarter-final suspended overnight.

Having never beaten a player ranked as high as world No 5 Svitolina, China’s No 1 looked to be easing to a straight sets victory and a place in the last four at Victoria Park.

Wang was up 6-2, 5-2 against the Ukrainian, though 15-30 down as she served for the match, when a sudden shower saw the players come off at 8.45pm Hong Kong time.

Tournament staff began drying Centre Court with the rain easing up around 9.15pm, but there was another heavy downpour 25 minutes later and play was eventually called.

Svitolina and Wang, ranked at a career-high 24th, will return to complete their match at 2pm on Saturday, with former world No 1 Garbine Muguruza awaiting the winner.

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There is a chance home fans could see an all-Chinese final on Sunday, with China No 2 Zhang Shuai facing the 18-year-old world No 102 Dayana Yastremska in Saturday’s other semi-final.

Two-time grand slam champion Muguruza had earlier swept past Thailand’s Luksika Kumkhum 6-2, 7-5 in the third match on Centre Court.

“I feel happy to be in the semi-finals, happy with my performance over the three matches, I’m expecting a very tough opponent,” the Spaniard said.

“It was very competitive in the first set, I managed to escape faster in the score. I feel in the second set she was playing so much better – it was a full battle. The difference was a couple of points.

“I’m happy with the way I fought and in the end I stayed composed and I managed to not let it go to a third set. I feel like we were both playing good.”

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In Friday’s second singles match on Centre Court, Zhang beat 2017 finalist Daria Gavrilova 6-1, 6-3 in just 67 minutes.

“I don’t really know much about my opponent [Yastremska] but I thought she played really well,” Zhang said. “I’ll try my best. I hope I can make the final.

“I was really happy to play on Centre Court, it was much different than the last two rounds on Court One because it was a little bit faster.

“The last two rounds gave me a lot of confidence. That’s why I played really well. I just tried my best every point, I kept my concentration the whole match. Thanks for so many fans coming.”

Gavrilova, who heads to Moscow next week for the Kremlin Cup, revealed she had an injury scare with her knee before the match.

“I was warming up and my knee all of a sudden … I couldn’t even step on the knee for some reason, so I quickly taped it,” she said.

“It’s all fine now, I probably need to ice it and have another look. I was a bit worried right before the match, it just happened literally before I went on.

“It went away so I didn’t have to deal with anything but I was a bit like, ‘Ah, what’s that?’”

For Yastremska it was a moment to savour in the first match on Centre Court, with the Ukrainian dropping to her knees after beating Kristina Kucova 7-6(6), 6-2 to reach the last four.

“It’s my first semi-final in Hong Kong, I love the place, I’m very excited,” she said.

“I was very nervous, I had a lot of mistakes, but I realised my nerves, so I just had to get through it and play point by point, and tried to keep myself calm.

“It’s always nice, it’s the first time I played on Centre Court. It’s completely different playing with people and without people.

“I had the fighting spirit. I knew I could find that balance, especially with the people in the crowd supporting me. I felt their energy. I was very motivated.”