Ferocious Zheng into Australian Open semis

Zheng Jie gestures while playing Maria Kirilenko of Russia in their singles quarter-final match on day nine of the Australian Open in Melbourne on January 26, 2010. AFP PHOTO

MELBOURNE, Jan 26, 2010 (AFP) - Unseeded Zheng Jie became the first Chinese player ever to make the Australian Open semi-finals when she beat Russia's Maria Kirilenko 6-1, 6-3 on Tuesday.

Zheng, who reached the same stage at Wimbledon in 2008, will now play Belgian wildcard Justine Henin for a place in Saturday's final.

"Henin for me is such a good player," Zheng said.

"She's so strong mentally -- I just want to go out there and enjoy the match and play well."

By reaching the semis, the 26-year-old from Chengdu will also return to the top 20 for the first since June last year.

Zheng was always in control against the 23-year-old Kirilenko, who took to the court with her left thigh heavily bandaged and who called for a medical time out at the end of the first set.

She raced through the first set in just 34 minutes as she broke Kirilenko twice, her all court coverage and accurate groundstrokes proving too much for her opponent.

Kirilenko was obviously hampered by her leg injury and wasn't able to get any power behind her shots, making them easy pickings for the determined Zheng.

The Russian continued to get running repairs from the trainer at each change of ends and her game picked up in the second set.

Zheng broke Kirilenko's first game, but the Russian held comfortably after that and had four chances to break back in the sixth game.

However, she wasn't able to do so and at 5-3 Zheng attacked a dispirited Kirilenko and the Russian cracked, serving a double fault on match point.

Zheng won her first Grand Slam title in 2006 when she took out the Australian Open doubles.

"I feel this court is lucky for me so I hope I can be here at the end of the week," she said.

Source: AFP

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