Peng secures semi-final spot

Peng Shuai reached her first grand slam semi-final at the 37th attempt (AP)

Peng Shuai reached her first grand slam semi-final at the 37th attempt

First published in National News © by

Sixteen years after heart surgery almost ended her hopes of a tennis career, Peng Shuai reached the US Open semi-finals with victory over 17-year-old Belinda Bencic.

The Swiss teenager has attracted most of the attention for her run to the last eight, which included the first two victories over top-10 players of her career.

But she was totally outplayed by Peng, who is yet to drop a set in the tournament and blasted 24 winners in a 6-2 6-1 victory.

The 28-year-old becomes the third Chinese player after two-time grand slam champion Li Na and Zheng Jie to reach the last four at a slam.

The breakthrough has come in her 37th slam tournament, and an emotional Peng said: " It's an amazing time for me. It's a little bit too exciting.

"I love tennis but it's a long time my career, it's been tough sometimes. I was thinking about giving up because I don't know if I can make it.

"I want to say thanks to my coach and my parents because they tell me to fight and never give up. And that today was coming."

The first obstacle to Peng's career came when she was 12 and had to undergo heart surgery for an inherited condition, which kept her away from the court for a year.

"The doctor was telling me maybe I have to stop," she said. "But it was really lucky I can come back and play."

Peng showed in the second round by beating Agnieszka Radwanska that she was in great form and she was always in control against Bencic.

The Chinese player, ranked 39th, was simply too consistently good, and it was not long before the teenager was showing her frustration.

Bencic received a warning for coaching by her father Ivan early in the second set and only just avoided a love set.

It has nevertheless been a superb tournament for the teenager, who has worked with Martina Hingis' mother, Melanie Molitor, since she was four and often practises with Hingis.

Ranked 331 a year ago, she is the youngest player in the top 100 and is projected to climb into the top 35 when the rankings are updated next week.

Bencic said: "For sure it's been a great tournament for me. I think today I really didn't play my best, but I can take definitely so many positives out of this tournament. I will work very hard so that I can be in a lot more quarter-finals.

"It's my fourth grand slam. Next year I'll maybe be seeded in Australia - it's unbelievable. Next year I don't have to play any more qualifying. I'm so happy."

It was a much better day for Hingis, who teamed up with Flavia Pennetta to beat Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebtonik 6-4 6-3 and reach the semi-finals of the women's doubles.

The last time Hingis was in the last four of a slam was at the Australian Open in 2002, when she won the doubles title and was runner-up in singles.

Serena and Venus Williams are out, though, losing 7-6 (7/5) 6-4 to fourth-seeded Russian pair Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina.

There was concern for Serena, who plays Pennetta in the singles quarter-finals on Wednesday, when she took a medical time-out to have her right ankle taped.

The world number one was not at her best throughout and ended the match with consecutive double faults.

Meanwhile, 15-year-old Cici Bellis, who won American hearts by beating Dominika Cibulkova on her US Open debut, lost in the second round of the juniors to Russian Natalia Vikhlyantseva.

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