US Open: Aryna Sabalenka cruises into semi-finals with win over Zheng Qinwen

Advanced: Aryna Sabalenka  (Getty Images)
Advanced: Aryna Sabalenka (Getty Images)

Aryna Sabalenka lived up to her billing as US Open favourite with a straightforward 6-1, 6-4 victory over Zheng Qinwen in the opening match on Wednesday.

Sabalenka will succeed Iga Swiatek as world No1 when the rankings are revised immaterial of how she fares in her semi-final and beyond.

And she produced a performance worthy of that status as her 20-year-old opponent struggled with the enormity of the occasion and only found her rhythm in the second set by which point the match had got away from her.

Zheng has been billed as one of the future stars of the women’s game but was let down by a first-service percentage of just 25 in the opening set, in which she managed to get just one game towards the latter stages.

However, she denied her Belarusian opponent the chance to run away with the win in the second set as she held her opening three service games before being broken from which she could not quite force her way back into the match.

Sabalenka’s power game proved Zheng’s undoing although the Australian Open champion gave the impression there was plenty more in reserve should she need to raise her levels further for the remainder of the tournament.

She now faces the winner of the opening night match between Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova and Madison Keys, the No17 seed.

Following her quarter-final win, Sabalenka, who has reached all four grand slam semi-finals now this season, said: “ I definitely played great tennis today. I’m super happy with the performance tonight and just gave myself a chance to do better in the semis. I’m going to do everything I can to stay to the end.”

The other women’s quarter-final on Thursday saw Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova pitted against American No17 seed Madison Keys.

Vondrousova had cut a tearful figure in the aftermath of her previous singles win and was seen nursing her damaged left arm with ice before announcing her withdrawal from the doubles.

She struggled with her game in the opening set against Keys and, although she rallied to get back on level terms in the second set, her American opponent held her nerve for a 6-1, 6-4 victory.