The first singles semifinal pitted 20-year-old Jelena Ostapenka against 21-year-old Ashleigh Barty. French Open champion Ostapenko arrived in Wuhan high on confidence, having won the tournament in Seoul last week, and taking out world #1 Garbine Muguruza in the quarterfinals here in Wuhan. Barty was riding a wave of confidence as well, knocking out three seeds on the way to the best week of her career. Ostapenko's game plan is always to hit the ball hard from both sides, from anywhere in the court. The question would be whether Barty would be able to weather the Ostapenko winners while applying her own pressure. The answer came quickly as Barty broke Ostapenko straight off the bat using a series of deep, hard backhand slices to keep Ostapenko on defense. A brief suspension in play as the roof was closed against a light mist did little to slow Barty down, as she took great care of her own service games, at one point delivering three aces in a row on the way to a 6-3 first set.
Ostapenko called for the trainer ahead of the second set for what she later explained as a bout of dizziness. However, it was obvious that she was physically compromised, largely due to having played 9 matches over the last 11 days compounded by a post-midnight finish to her match last night. “Even on the practice already I felt like I had no energy, and really, really tired because been playing so many matches these days,” she said after the match in which she ‘wasn't playing her best, not even probably 50% of what she could’. With her serve speed down and Barty applying more spin to pull her wide, Ostapenko was broken early and often, leading to a 6-3, 6-0 defeat.
With that effort, Barty advances to her third final of the year, having won in Kuala Lumpur and lost to Petra Kvitova on the grass of Birmingham. Ahead of her biggest final of her career, the laid-back Australian doesn’t appear to be too anxious. “I think every match is the same for me,” she said. “It doesn't matter whether it's the first round at Wimbledon or the final here tomorrow. I think for me I try and approach the match the exact same way.”
She’ll take on world #20 Caroline Garcia who put an end to a fairytale run by Greek qualifier Maria Sakkari, 6-3, 6-2. The Wuhan Open final will also be Garcia’s biggest to date, with the Frenchwoman owning three smaller titles on grass and clay. After dealing with a back injury for the past 12 months, Garcia is pragmatic ahead of the final. “In the past sometimes I was playing some good tournaments, some good week in a row, and then I was not consistent through the year,” she said earlier in the week. Although she’s favored on paper over world #37 Barty, Garcia is cautiously optimistic: “It's not because you get overexcited, but it's difficult, tennis, because from one week to another, it's rare that you win a tournament. It's often that you lost. Sometimes you can lost against, I mean, everybody, top player. Now that the tour is very strong, you can lost also against lower player ranked.”