The Chinese player doesn't get talked about often, but she's putting together a really strong run in Melbourne. She's been flying under the radar for a while, even though she played at the WTA Elite Trophy last year and has been part of the Top 20 on the WTA Tour.
She has an all-court game that is mostly based on her pretty strong serve and very good baseline play, which can rival some of the better players. She's not very consistent and can be all over the place, but she's also young, so that will come with time.
When it comes to Kalinskaya, she's also been very good for a while, but unlike Zheng, she often struggles with injuries. The run in Melbourne has been pretty solid, albeit she didn't have the most difficult draw.
Kalinskaya and Zheng played once before, but it happened back in 2022, and things are a bit different now. Zheng is the far better player compared to that year, and Kalinskaya has dealt with some injuries since then, but it's important to note that the Russian did win that one 6-3 2-6 6-2.
If she were healthy and played regularly, I could see an argument for her to be favored here, but as things stand right now, Zheng seems to be the more logical favorite.
It's a tricky matchup overall because, on one hand, Kalinskaya is the better or more natural hitter. On the other hand, Zheng worked her way to a really strong level and has a pretty tricky serve. It's kind of hard to predict who will have a better day because they're so close generally.
Logic says it will be Zheng so I will back her to get it done here alhtough I'm far from certain.
Prediction: Qinwen Zheng to win in three sets.