US Open 2019

Ex-coach said I can be top: Wang Qiang

Wang Qiang is ecstatic in celebrating her win over second seed Ashleigh Barty in the fourth round of the US Open. The Chinese 18th seed will face another more-fancied opponent in Serena Williams in the quarter-finals. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Wang Qiang is ecstatic in celebrating her win over second seed Ashleigh Barty in the fourth round of the US Open. The Chinese 18th seed will face another more-fancied opponent in Serena Williams in the quarter-finals. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Chinese 18th seed shocks world No. 2 Barty, credits late trainer McNamara for run of form

NEW YORK • An emotional Wang Qiang paid tribute to her former coach Peter McNamara, the late Australian Davis Cup tennis star and Wimbledon doubles champion, as the inspiration behind her breakthrough run at the US Open.

The 18th seed is enjoying her best Grand Slam showing and qualified for the quarter-finals after beating French Open champion Ashleigh Barty 6-2, 6-4 on Sunday.

Wang, 27, said: "He (McNamara) helped me a lot. It's really tough.

"I think he's always been there with me. He told me how to play the match. He took me to professional tennis. He always believed in me. He told me I can be the top player."

She had worked with the Australian since 2015 until the start of this year, when his deteriorating health made it harder to travel, ending a partnership that coincided with her cracking the world's top 20 last year.

McNamara, a popular figure on the men's and women's tours, died in July at the age of 64 after a battle with prostate cancer.

Wang, who is known on tour as Q, is the first Chinese to reach the last eight here since Peng Shuai's semi-final run in 2014.

Her next opponent will be no less formidable. She faces former world No. 1 Serena Williams, who beat 22nd seed Petra Martic 6-3, 6-4 despite rolling her right ankle during the second set.

Wang, who has never faced the American great, said: "I really admire Serena. She's so great, and I'm happy I can have the chance to play against her, no matter win or lose. But I need to recover my body now, then I will talk about the match against Serena with my coach."

Her coach Thomas Drouet, who helped Marion Bartoli to the 2013 Wimbledon title, said: "She must not try to beat Serena Williams, the 23-time Grand Slam winner.

"That's too big. I want her to minimise her opponent and just play against the Serena of 2019.

"From there, we can talk about the tactics."

Against the second-ranked Barty, Wang played consistent, defensive tennis, while her opponent hit 39 unforced errors out of 123 total points, including 24 in the second set. The Australian also failed to convert any of her nine break-point chances in the 82-minute match.

Barty, who did not drop a set to Wang in their two meetings last year, in the Strasbourg quarter-finals and Zhuhai final, praised Wang's clutch play.

She said: "She was able to put the ball with great depth in difficult positions for me. I still was able to create opportunities. Just very frustrating that on the big points today, Wang played a lot better."

On the men's side, Novak Djokovic's title defence came unstuck when a nagging shoulder injury forced the world No. 1 to retire from his fourth-round match against Stan Wawrinka, prompting a chorus of boos from the crowd at Flushing Meadows. The Serb, who was trailing 6-4, 7-5, 2-1, walked off with his head down but stuck his left thumb high in the air.

"The pain was constant for weeks now. Some days higher, some days with less intensity, and obviously taking different stuff to kill the pain instantly," said the 16-time Slam champion, who has triumphed in New York three times.

After dropping the second set, he immediately called for medical attention and sat courtside without his shirt on while the trainer gave him a massage. He returned to the court but was still clearly hampered by the issue and, after being broken to love following a double fault, decided he could not go on.

The shoulder injury nearly saw him retire in the second round on Wednesday but he seemed to have recovered by Friday, saying he was almost pain-free after winning in straight sets to reach the last 16.

Wawrinka, who had not faced Djokovic since beating him in the 2016 US Open final, said he could see his opponent was struggling.

"I could see some little thing that he was in trouble," said the Swiss, who will next face Russian fifth seed Daniil Medvedev.

"But I was most likely, most of the time, focused on myself because I know how well he can fight. I know how well he can come back."

XINHUA, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NYTIMES, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 03, 2019, with the headline 'Ex-coach said I can be top: Wang'. Print Edition | Subscribe