Rising star Wang Qiang’s dream run at the Wuhan Open in China ended in heartbreak on Friday as an injury forced her to retire from the semi-final, with Anett Kontaveit leading 6-2, 2-1.
Roared on by adoring home fans, Wang — top-ranked in China — had already made history by becoming the first local player to reach the quarter-finals of the tournament with an impressive march to the last four that included an upset of world number seven Karolina Pliskova.
Wang won the first two games of the match but the clinical Kontaveit won the next six games in a row to take the first set.
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The 34th-ranked Wang was moving gingerly before the final game of the first set, and got some on-court treatment on her legs before play resumed.
But the home favourite, appearing to hold back tears between points, played only three games in the second set before signalling to the umpire that she had to retire.
“I wanted to hold on, game after game, hoping for a miracle,” Wang said.
“But my body did not give me that miracle. It’s a pity that I couldn’t continue.”
Her exit means the first final of 2018 for the 22-year-old Kontaveit, who will be looking to win her second WTA title after enjoying a breakout season in 2017.
“I’m so sorry that it had to end this way and I feel so bad for (Wang),” said the Estonian, who is currently 27th in the WTA rankings.
Kontaveit, who knocked out world number nine and 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens in the first round at Wuhan, is aiming to finish the season strongly.
“From the beginning of the season, the goal has been top 20 for this year,” she said. “It’s my first final this year… it’s really exciting.”
Winning the Wuhan Open on Saturday could help achieve that top-20 result, with the tournament victor receiving 900 ranking points.
She will face the winner of the second semi-final between Australia’s Ashleigh Barty and Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.
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