By Amy Tennery

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Second seed Aryna Sabalenka crushed Zheng Qinwen 6-1 6-4 on Wednesday to reach her fifth straight Grand Slam semi-final and end the Chinese 23rd seed’s charmed run at the U.S. Open.

Sabalenka, who will move top of the world rankings next week, will next face 17th seed Madison Keys after the American powered past Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova.

The Belarusian leads Keys 2-1 in their head-to-head meetings, most recently beating her in the Wimbledon quarters.

Zheng, in her first Grand Slam quarter-final, endured a miserable time against the Australian Open winner as she was unable to get much power off her serve and committed a succession of errors.

“I’m super happy with the win against her … super happy with the performance,” said Sabalenka, who lost in the semi-finals in her previous two U.S. Open appearances.

“I’m going to do everything I can to stay until the end.”

Sabalenka has not dropped a set this year at Flushing Meadows and won the first five games on Wednesday, dropping only one point on her first serve in the opening set.

Zheng improved in the second set, forcing Sabalenka to run back and forth along the baseline and showed finesse to triumph in a 21-shot rally in the fifth game.

“In the second set she start playing better, serving better. I kind of expect that, because after first set it was, like, nothing to lose for her, she start playing a little bit more aggressive,” Sabalenka said.

A double fault and two unforced errors in the seventh game saw Zheng broken and she never recovered, sending a backhand into the net on match point to prompt a satisfied fist-pump from her opponent.

“It was a little tricky, and I’m super happy that even though she was serving really well, I was able to break her serve for once, and it was enough for that set,” Sabalenka told reporters.

Zheng said she would learn from the loss.

“I feel against her I need to know how to (defend) better and stay more in the rally,” she told reporters. “Sabalenka, she’s a tough opponent to beat, and the loss today made me think a lot.”

(Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York, editing by Ed Osmond, Peter Rutherford)

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