Australian No.1 Arina Rodionova has finally been brought down to earth at the Thailand Open in Hua Hin after a high-flying week in which she made tennis history.
The Melbourne veteran, who had been left emotional 24 hours earlier after realising that she will next week become the oldest women's player ever to debut in the world's top-100 at the age of 34, lost her quarter-final on Friday to the second seed, Zhu Lin.
Having already knocked out two Chinese players en route to the last-eight - her first quarter-final appearance at tour-level for seven years - the resurgent Rodionova, currently 101 in the world, found the 30-year-old reigning champ Zhu a step too far as she went down 6-3 6-3 in 75 minutes.
It ended a big week for the Russian-born Rodionova who, after finally reaching the top-100 after a 20-year slog in her professional career, reflected in a social media post that the moral of her tale was: "Never give up, I guess?"
Never give up, I guess? 🤷🏽♀️ https://t.co/ypE3nKZhBb
— Arina Rodionova (@arinarodionova) February 1, 2024
Next Monday, when the new WTA rankings come out, she will, at 34 years and 52 days, beat the record of the previous oldest top-100 debutant, Israel player Tzipi Obziler, who was 33 years and eight months when she first broke through in February 2007.
On Friday, world No.45 Zhu proved too strong on the hard court, cracking Rodionova's serve four times in a see-sawing opening set, before grabbing her chance for the only break in the penultimate game of the second stanza.
— WTA Thailand Open (@ThailandOpenHH) February 2, 2024
In the semi-final, Zhu will meet compatriot Wang Yafan, who saw off the challenge of American Katie Volynets in a thrilling three setter, prevailing 1-6 6-3 7-6 (7-4).
Wang Xinyu also made it into the last-four by defeating Kazakhstan's Yulia Putintseva 6-1 3-6 6-3, with only Russian youngster Diana Shnaider able to ensure there won't be a Chinese monopoly of the semis.
It is, though, the first time that three Chinese women have featured in the last four of a WTA Tour event since Nanchang in 2018.
Shnaider, the highly promising 19-year-old left-hander, will be featuring in her fourth semi-final in seven months after a straight-sets win over Hungarian qualifier Dalma Galfi, who had beaten Ajla Tomljanovic earlier in the event.