Melbourne, Jan 18 (IANS) Chinese qualifier Wang Qiang scored a sensational opening round win over American woman tennis player Sloane Stephens on Day 1 of the Australian Open here on Monday. Qiang knocked out Stephens, a semi-finalist here three years ago, in straight sets 6-3, 6-3 in one of the biggest upsets of the opening day, reports Xinhua. Despite being ranked 76 spots below Stephens, Qiang controlled the game from the baseline and quickly went a setup.

The qualifier then broke in the first game of the second set and broke Stephens another two times to close out the match. Qiang became just the second player, in the women’s draw, to knock out a seeded player to date, with Russian Margarita Gasparyan beating 17-seed Sara Errani. The 24-year-old was ecstatic after progressing to the second round, labelling the win the best of her career. “(Stephens) is a good player … I just tried my best,” Wang told reporters after the match.

 “It was my first time playing at Hisense (Arena), so (I was) a little bit nervous.” Qiang was left blushing after a reporter compared her impressive forehand action to two-time Grand Slam champion, and compatriot, Li Na. Stephens wasn’t so jovial when she spoke to reporters following her early exit, but credited Qiang and suggested her challenger’s lead-up form may have proved the difference. 

“She’s played all this week, three solid matches,” Stephens, 22, told reporters on Monday. “She played a really good match and I wish her well in the future.” Qiang will fancy her chances against her second-round opponent Anna-Lena Friedsam of Germany, who had not progressed past the first round of the Australian Open until Monday’s 7-6 (7-3), 2-6, 6-1 win over Lourdes Domínguez Lino.

 In other matches, Japanese Kei Nishikori cruised past Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. The match shaped as a tricky opening game for the number seven seed, with his world number-32 opponent just missing out on a seed at the first Grand Slam of the year. But the 26-year-old kept his quest for a fifth straight appearence in the tournament’s second week alive, winning inside of two hours. 

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