Wang Qiang of China serves against Monica Puig of Puerto Rico during their women's singles quarter-final match at the WTA Wuhan Open tennis tournament in Wuhan on September 27, 2018. Image Credit: AFP

Wuhan: China’s tennis women are starting to get results to match their potential and are ready to follow in the footsteps of former great Li Na, according to rising star Wang Qiang.

Wang has been in hot form in recent months, winning her first WTA Tour 250 title at the Jiangxi Open in Nanchang in July.

She won her second at the Guangzhou Open last week and on Thursday, roared on by adoring crowds, became the first home-grown player to reach the semi-finals of the Wuhan Open as she extended her win-loss streak on Chinese soil this year to 13-1. She defeated Puerto Rica’s Olympic champion Monica Puig 6-3, 6-1 in Wuhan to reach the last four.

“I’m really happy to be competing in China, getting a lot of support from fans,” she said.

The 26-year-old’s run of success also included winning an Asian Games gold medal in Indonesia in August. And this week Wang upset world No. 7 Karolina Pliskova in the second round.

Wang, who recently became China’s No. 1, promised there was more to come from her country’s women, who bear the burden of following Li, Asia’s first Grand Slam winner and a trailblazer for tennis in the world’s most populous nation.

“After the emergence of Li Na, I think we are on the rise,” said the world No. 34.

“You see young players. At a tournament (of this level) ... you see great performances. I think in the near future, in international tournaments, we’ll see more Chinese players.”

Li, who triumphed at Roland Garros in 2011 and won the Australian Open in 2014 before retiring later that year, is one of Wang’s idols.

“She is a goal. She’s a role model for many athletes, especially Chinese players,” said Wang, who trained in Wuhan when she was a child, and planned to become a teacher if a career in tennis did not work out.

“If I can play as well as she did, I will have a very perfect life.”

Several promising talents have emerged in China, but none has come even close to matching the success of Li.

But Wang, who grabbed headlines at the French Open this year with her straight-sets demolition of Venus Williams, says she is growing in confidence after a successful 2018, and playing in front of home crowds in recent months has helped boost her game.

“In terms of technique, in the past year I think I’ve been doing quite similar (things) but I’m really more confident,” said Wang, whose family paid for her to train in Japan during her formative years, instead of sticking with China’s state-run sports system.

“I believe in myself. That’s the most important element.”