Australian Open Day 11 Tips: Zheng has edge on Kalinskaya

Qinwen big match
Big match: Can Qinwen Zheng complete her journey to a Grand Slam title?

Tennis columnist Gavin Mair has his sight set on a battle between rising Chinese star Qinwen Zheng and the in-form Anna Kalinskaya on day eleven of the Australian Open.

  • Zheng realising her potential

  • Kalinskaya in great form

  • Devil in the detail


  • If you haven't heard of Qinwen Zheng you soon will. The 21-year old is touted as the best Chinese star of her generation, and certainly the player most likely to follow in Li Na's footsteps by grabbing a Grand Slam.

    The progress in her game is obvious and it is no surprise to see her reach consecutive major quarterfinals. The question is, is this the moment for her to go all the way?

    Close quarters

    Looking at her draw Qinwen Zheng has every chance of marking the 10th anniversary of Li Na's Australian Open win in the perfect way. She would be favourite for her semifinal against either Linda Noskova or Dayana Yastremska, and would have more than a puncher's chance of bettering either Aryna Sabalenka or Coco Gauff in the final.

    However, lets not put the cart before the horse. After all the sporting adage is "I'm taking it one match at a time," and quarter-final opponent Anna Kalinskaya is no gimme.

    The Russian won their previous encounter, but it is not an accurate match-up guide, played in the unique altitude conditions of Guadalajara. I watched that match and Qinwen was a fish out of water - or rather a bird flying too close to the sun(?) - whilst Kalinskaya had mastered how to control her flat trajectories in the thin air.

    Slim margins between the two

    In statistical terms there is little separating them over the past 12 months. The Chinese executed a marginal serving advantage on hard courts, holding 75.5% of the time relative to her opponent's 72.9%. Qinwen also has a higher win percentage of 29 wins to 11 losses compared to 24 to 16. Slim margins.

    Kalinskaya is in very good form this season. She's been holding serve more frequently than her 2023 total. However, she is facing comparatively more BPs per game than Qinwen.

    The Russian has also been more stable in the rallies this season winning 54% of her second serve points, although Qinwen is comfortably winning more first serves by 78.8% to 65.4%. The serving performance of Qinwen is key to her success, but that level does yo-yo.

    In Qinwen's good sets she's landing roughly 65% of her first serves, but in other sets its dipping as low as 35%, and averaging around 40%. Those dips are dragging her into trouble - a 41% serving set dragged her into a third set match tiebreak vs Yafan Wang. A 42% serving average saw her drop a set to Ashlyn Krueger.

    She averaged 44% vs Dodin, but that was an extremely comfortable match-up for her. The French player really had little business being so deep in the draw with her wooden movement, and Qinwen ably exposed that flaw.

    Kalinskaya's personal belief growing

    Kalinskaya is in a good place. She said after defeating Jasmine Paolini, "It felt amazing to pass two rounds in a Grand Slam but to win so many matches is something special. I had a tough three rounds so I can't be nervous anymore. I focused on being more consistent than her, taking my chances and being aggressive. I belief in myself."

    This is the second of what will likely be many major quarter-finals for Qinwen Zheng. Her ceiling is higher than Kalinskaya, of that there is little doubt. After being overwhelmed by both nerves and the power of Sabalenka last time round Qinwen has taken advice from legendary compatriot Li Na who offered sage advice - "She told me don't think too much."

    If Qinwen has a rotten serving day it is not unfeasible that Kalinskaya wins this match. She is after all proven to be the steadier of the two off the ground. I do however think Qinwen gets the job done here.

    Against lower ranked players on hard courts she has a stellar 19/3 record over the past 12 months. All these advantages will add up although it is uncertain how the match will play out.

    An angle I find sensible given Qinwen's serving wobbles, is for her to take the longer route to victory. Kalinskaya is highly capable of capitalising on a sub-par serving performance. I believe given her oscillating performance levels that three sets is entirely possible and at 13/53.60 a Qinwen Zheng 2-1 set victory is an eye catching price.

    Back Qinwen Zheng 2-1 set victory @ 13/53.60

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