Japan Open: China to win as Lin Zhu, Xinyu Wang gear up for SF contest

Mai Hontama continued to keep the Japanese hopes soaring as she clinched a hard-fought victory

by Abbey Johnson
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Japan Open: China to win as Lin Zhu, Xinyu Wang gear up for SF contest
© Sarah Stier/ Getty Images Staff

There will be a Chinese player in the Japan Open final after Lin Zhu and Xinyu Wang both won their respective quarter-final matches on Friday, in Osaka. Zhu got past Elizabeth Mandlik in the quarter-finals while Wang defeated Yulia Putintseva.

The first player to reach the semi-final was the third-seeded Wang. The world no. 39 was pushed to the brink across the first two sets by the resilient Kazakh before coming through in a relatively straightforward deciding set.

In the end, the score read in favour of Wang, 7-6(4), 6-7(1), 6-3. The match ended after two hours and 51 minutes. The players traded breaks once each in each of the first two sets. In the second set tie-break, Putintseva didn’t even give her opponent an opportunity to try and close out the match in straight sets.

Her level, however, dipped in the third set even as Wang upped hers. The Chinese player won 74% of her first-serve points and 73% of her second-serve points. She also won 72% points on return on Putintseva’s second serve.

Both players faced just one break point each but where Wang saved hers, Putintseva wasn’t able to do so and this cost her the match.

Japan Open: Lin Zhu fends off determined Elizabeth Mandlik

Meanwhile, in the last match on Friday, the 35th-ranked Zhu came through against Mandlik, 6-3, 6-2 after an hour and 14 minutes of play.

Zhu created eight break point chances for herself on the American youngster’s serve and converted seven of these. She also won 20 of 26 points played on Mandlik’s serve. In the second set, Mandlik did break Zhu’s serve in the latter’s first game of the set and even consolidated the break.

But from that point onwards, Zhu won the next six games in a row to push past her rival convincingly. This is the fifth time Zhu’s reached the semi-final of a WTA tournament this year. Against Wang, she’ll be looking forward to making her second final in 2023, after the Thailand Open, in February.

Mai Hontama and Ashlyn Krueger have set up the other semi-final in Osaka. Playing in the second half of the draw, Hontama, who received a wildcard, came from down a set to better Arianne Hartono. Hontama won 6-7(2), 6-4, 6-1 after two hours and 19 minutes against the qualifier from the Netherlands.

Krueger had an easier match-up against Anna Kalinskaya, prevailing 6-3, 6-1 in an hour and 21 minutes. The Japan Open semi-final will be the first time the 19-year-old Krueger, ranked 123rd in the world, will play Hontama, who’s ranked 176th.

Lin Zhu Xinyu Wang Mai Hontama
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