1. Welcome to the Big League, Aryna Sabalenka!
For the second year in a row, the Wuhan Open crowned a breakthrough player as champion. Last year’s winner, Caroline Garcia, bottled her Wuhan magic and kept it going, winning the following week in Beijing, making her first WTA Finals and cracking the Top 10. This year’s champion, Aryna Sabalenka, also dazzled crowds with her fearless power, adding a second title to what’s been a breakthrough few months. Now at a career-high world No. 16 with her title here, Wuhan fans got an early look at a very likely future star of the game. And at only 20 years old, we’ll probably be seeing her on the final weekend of tournaments for many years to come. Fellow finalist Anett Kontaveit is also a name to remember. As just 22 herself, Kontaveit became the first Estonian player to reach a Premier 5 final, going one further than her first Premier 5 semifinal in Rome this May.
2. Unpredictability Is Exciting
The last 8 Grand Slams have featured 8 different winners. While some may see this as a “weak” era in the women’s game where no one player can dominate, others see it as an exciting time to watch women’s tennis. Players are constantly jostling for top position and ranking points become all the more precious, giving players even more incentive to play their best week in and week out. By the quarterfinals this week, 15 of 16 seeds had fallen, ensuring some of the game’s most talented yet lesser-known players would get their turn in the spotlight.
3. Chinese Women’s Tennis Is Doing Just Fine
Since the retirement of megastar Li Na, the hunt has been on for her successor. Nowhere is that more intense than in Wuhan, Li Na’s hometown. This year’s Wuhan Open was encouraging for Chinese women’s tennis with not one, but three breakout performances. Fresh off her US Open girl’s singles title, the first ever for China, Wang Xiyu made it through qualifying here and had match points against No. 13 seed Daria Kasatkina. Chinese No. 2 Shuai Zhang also made it to the third round, losing to eventual finalist Anett Kontaveit. But the breakout star was the new Chinese No. 1 Qiang Wang who made it all the way to the semis, taking out No. 8 Karolina Pliskova on the way. Her body gave out, but her inspired play over the last three weeks gives Chinese fans a lot to be excited about.
4. The Depth in Women’s Tennis Is Encouraging
Always boasting an incredibly strong field, players ranked in the 40s and 50s had to come through qualifying at the Wuhan Open. Might those extra matches have helped them get match fit? The 2018 Wuhan Open will be remembered as a tournament where qualifiers went far, including a pair of youngsters in 17-year-old Xiyu Wang (second round) and 19-year-old American Sofia Kenin (third round), while Katerina Siniakova and Monica Puig rode the wave all the way to the quarterfinals.
5. Could Chinese Food Be the Key to Winning?
In the tournament’s milestone fifth year, players praised everything from the organization to the hotel to the beautiful center court. But it was Chinese food which players revealed might be the secret to winning. Semifinalist Qiang Wang noted that while Melbourne and New York have great Chinese food, having access to it all the time was the secret to her success, saying: “For the whole year I'm trying to search for Chinese food wherever I'm playing the game. I think, yes, Chinese food is the most important thing.” Champion Sabalenka concurred: “I like to play in China. I always doing well here. I don't know why. Probably the fried rice make me much stronger on the court.”