MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Chinese giantkiller Wang Qiang was left heartbroken by the death of her coach Peter McNamara last year but felt the Australian had shared in her triumph over seven-times champion Serena Williams at Melbourne Park on Friday.
The 27th seed Wang stunned Williams 6-4 6-7(2) 7-5 in a tense third round clash at Rod Laver Arena to consign the American to her earliest exit from the year’s first Grand Slam since 2006.
Former Davis Cup winner and Australian Open semi-finalist McNamara coached Wang for several years before he succumbed to prostate cancer at the age of 64 last July.
“I’m still having dreams about him,” an emotional Wang told reporters softly, after ending Williams’s bid for a record-equaling 24th Grand Slam title.
“I believe that he was watching today. I really wish he could have been courtside today to see the win.”
The 28-year-old said beating American great Williams was the finest win of her career, outstripping her upset of world number one Ash Barty at last year’s U.S. Open.
The win over Australian Barty, who was seeded second at Flushing Meadows, set up Wang’s maiden Grand Slam quarter-final against Williams in front of the American’s home fans in New York.
It ended sourly with a 6-1 6-0 thrashing, a defeat that could have followed Wang onto center court at Rod Laver Arena.
Wang won only 13 points against Williams in New York and failed to hit a single winner but there was little sign of intimidation from the Tianjin native on Friday who went toe-to-toe in the rallies before calmly taking the first set.
Wang wavered when serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set to be dragged into a decider but bravely dug in for an attritional battle with the American.
“It was pretty obvious that my hands were getting a bit shaky toward the end but I told myself it’s better to go out playing my game rather than lose being nervous,” added Wang.
She squandered two match points in the tense finish but it was Williams who was first to buckle under the pressure as she bowed out hammering a backhand into the net.
Wang will meet Ons Jabeur for a place in the quarter-finals, an unheralded Tunisian who defeated former champion Caroline Wozniacki, sending the Dane into retirement in her valedictory tournament.
Saturday will be Chinese New Year but Wang said it would be just another day in the life of a professional tennis player as she marches forward in her bid to match her U.S. Open run.
“I do gym really, really much. I think it’s worked. You can see the result,” she said with a smile.
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing By Shri Navaratnam