Tennis: Wang Qiang downs world No. 5 Elina Svitolina in Hong Kong for biggest win of the year

China's Wang Qiang hits a return during her quarter-final women's singles match against Elina Svitolina at the Hong Kong Open tennis tournament on Oct 12, 2018.
China's Wang Qiang hits a return during her quarter-final women's singles match against Elina Svitolina at the Hong Kong Open tennis tournament on Oct 12, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (AFP) - China's No. 1 Wang Qiang wrapped up the biggest win of her season on Saturday (Oct 13), after an overnight rain delay forced her to wait to claim victory over world number five Elina Svitolina at the Hong Kong Open.

She needed just 10 minutes on court to end the Ukrainian's resistance, sealing the 6-2, 6-4 quarter final win with an ace.

The 26-year-old was serving for the match at 5-2 in the second set when the heavens opened Friday evening.

Svitolina, the tournament's top seed, was Wang's highest-ranked top 10 scalp this year.

She was unable to capitalise on her stay of execution despite breaking Wang to go 3-5 and then holding her own serve.

The Rome champion, who had been hoping to sew up qualification in Hong Kong for the WTA Finals, said Saturday that she was a "fighter" and had come back on court believing she still had a chance.

"But in the end (Wang) had the advantage, she had the confidence," Svitolina said. "Yesterday she was playing really great tennis - I was missing a lot, my game was really off."

She added: "It was a really bad performance from me so I was very disappointed that I couldn't play even 20 percent of the game that I can play."

Wang, the world No. 24, grabbed headlines at the French Open with her straight-sets demolition of Venus Williams, offering a hint of what was to come, and later overcame Karolina Pliskova in both Beijing and Wuhan.

The Hong Kong quarter-final was a rematch of August's US Open third round contest, which the Ukrainian won in straight sets, but here the tables were turned with Svitolina receiving a tennis masterclass from her opponent.

Both players came to the tournament in hot form, with Svitolina winning two WTA titles in just four months. She is battling four other players, including Pliskova, for the final three places at the WTA Finals in Singapore later this month.

Svitolina, who is now looking for a tournament wild card to boost her Singapore chances, is also in the hunt for a new fitness and main coach for next season.

Wang leapfrogged Zhang Shuai to become China's number one women's singles player after winning the Guangzhou Open in September. It was her second career title after the Jiangxi Open in July. She has said she is aiming to break into the top 20 in the new year.

Wang, a semi finalist in Hong Kong last year, faces former world number one Garbine Muguruza later Saturday for place in the final.

China's number two Zhang will not feature in the singles action Sunday after she was later dumped out by another Ukrainian Dayana Yastremska, who powered to a 7-5, 6-4 victory to reach her first WTA Tour final.

The 18-year-old - who earlier this year became the first player born this millennium to break into the WTA top 100 rankings - appeared overwhelmed after the win, lying on her back in Centre Court to soak up the cheers of the crowd.

"I was nervous from the first ball," she said. "After match point I fell on the floor because I felt so relaxed, that was my instinct to go and lie because I needed to put it away, the emotions. I even started to cry a little bit."

Zhang, ranked 40th in the world, had shrugged off the loss of the first set despite leading 5-2 to race to a 3-0 lead in the second set, only to be hauled back by her opponent's blistering return of serve and shot-making skills.