Just like the Wuhan Open helped spark a magical run for last year’s winner Caroline Garcia which saw her hoist two of her biggest trophies back-to-back, book a spot at the year-ending WTA Finals and crack the Top 10 for the first time, it may just do the same for tomorrow’s champion.
Sabalenka has been enjoying a breakthrough season, jumping 58 spots to her current ranking of No. 20 on the back of 1 title, 3 finals and seven Top 10 wins. The 20-year-old Belarusian has come alive in what many are calling the “Summer of Sabalenka”, using a big serve and absolutely fearless groundstrokes off both wings to bludgeon her opponents into submission. On Friday’s semifinal, last year’s finalist and only remaining seeded player, Ashleigh Barty, started out better on the way to a 5-3 lead. However, the Belarusian’s trademark power game picked up, forcing a tie-break which ended with a Sabalenka ace. There was more of the same in the second, with Sabalenka breaking Barty immediately on her way to a 7-6 (2), 6-4 victory.
In the final, Sabalenka will play Estonian Anett Kontaveit who ended the dream run of Chinese wild card Qiang Wang. The question for Wang was always going to be how long her body would hold up after deep runs three weeks in a row. As the new Chinese No. 1 took to the court for her semifinal, things did not look for the Tianjin native with both thighs heavily wrapped. Still, being the first Chinese player to reach the semifinals of the Wuhan Open perhaps buoyed her to a 2-0 lead, if only temporarily. From that point, however, world No. 24 Kontaveit took advantage of Wang’s hampered condition and ran off the next seven games, giving her a set and one love lead. Wang managed a final hurrah to level the second at 1-all, but after throwing in a double fault to lose her own service game, she decided to retire from the match.
“I wanted to hold on game after game, perhaps hoping for a miracle. My physical body couldn't give me any miracle,” Wang said after the match.
Seeing her opponent in tears, Kontaveit shared some words of comfort with Wang: “I told her I'm sorry that it had to end this way today, and I congratulated her for the previous week and this week. Yeah, I really hope she gets better. I really felt for her today.”
Kontaveit and Sabalenka have never faced each other, but there is much on the line for both, including a winner’s check for US$ 503,725 and the biggest title of her career, but with it a career high ranking of No. 21 for Kontaveit or No. 16 for Sabalenka.
Saturday’s Doubles final is also set with No. 2 seeds Andrea Sestini Hlavackova and Barbora Strycova to face No. 6 seeds Elise Mertens and Demi Schuurs. Mertens / Schuurs defeated Shuko Aoyama and Lidziya Marozava, 4-6, 6-2, 10-3, while the No. 2 seeds moved through with a walkover against
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Anastasija Sevastova.
To buy tickets to the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open, visit: www.wuhanopen.org and www.4008702014.com