Aryna Sabalenka is the new Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open champion after winning the biggest title of her career with a dominating 63 63 win over Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit in Saturday’s final.
Twenty-year-old Sabalenka was making her debut in Wuhan and is the youngest winner of a WTA Premier 5 event since Belinda Bencic won the title in Toronto in 2015. She is also the youngest Wuhan Open champion in the five-year history of the tournament.
Her victory in Wuhan marks the biggest high so far in what has already been a breakthrough year for the Belarussian. The US$503,725 winner’s prizemoney cheque also made Saturday the biggest payday of her career.
This time last year Sabalenka was ranked 111 in the world but since then she has won her first career title in New Haven and has now gone one further with victory in Wuhan. When Monday’s new WTA Rankings are released she is projected to be ranked 16. In winning Wuhan she joins Petra Kvitova (2014 and 2016), Venus Williams (2015) and Caroline Garcia on an illustrious honour roll of singles champions in the central Chinese city.
Taking the prestigious Wuhan title has put Sabalenka into the reckoning for a place in the BNP Paribas WTA Finals in Singapore, where only the best top eight players in the world compete. Her wins this week put her up to 12 in the Race to Singapore, with six places still available and plenty of further points available at next week’s China Open in Beijing.*
In front of a packed crowd at the Optics Valley International Tennis Center on Saturday evening local time, Sabalenka showed no sign of nerves despite playing for the prestigious Wuhan Open trophy. Her clean, powerful ballstriking offered Kontaveit very few opportunities to impose herself of the match, while the Estonian’s own service games were often a struggle. When Sabalenka’s moment came she took her first matchpoint and looked every inch the champion.
Aryna Sabalenka quotes
On the match:
“I was nervous today little bit. You're always nervous before the final because it's different. But on the court I was pretty comfortable. I was confidence with myself."
On winning in Wuhan:
“I'm so happy to get this trophy. Last time it was just like a plate. I always wanted to have something special. This looks really cool. I'm so happy that I get this title. It's the first final of this kind of tournament, first title.”
On playing in China:
“This is one of my favourite places to play. I really enjoy to be here. Always play well here. I don't know why, but I really play well here. Yeah, I’m always waiting for this part of the season. I always want to be here. I always want to play matches. I'm always so happy that I play well. Probably they have to think about having more tournaments in China (laughs)."
On her chances of making the Singapore field:
“Before Wuhan, I was really thinking about Singapore, that I really want to get in there. It's makes me really nervous. Like, I couldn't move on the court, I couldn't do anything. Then when I was speaking with my coach, I understand that is not the main goal for this year. Then I start to be more relaxed. Now I'm 11 or 10. I don't know actually. I don't think about it. If I get in, I will be so happy. If not, what I can do? I just have to come on the court and play.”
Anett Kontaveit quotes
“She played really, really strong. Yeah, from the beginning she put me under a lot of pressure. I think obviously my first-serve percentage was really low. That gave me I think a lot of trouble. I sort of knew what was coming. But it’s another thing playing against that. She's a really good player, as her results have showed this year. Her game was really aggressive. I felt the pressure straightaway. That's what she did better than I did.”
Download videos and photos from Wuhan Open:
Quick facts on our singles champion Aryna Sabalenka:
Name: Aryna Sabalenka
Ranked: 20 (projected to rise to 16 on Monday)
WTA titles: 2 (New Haven 2018, Wuhan Open 2018)
Coach: Dmitry Tursunov
Sabalenka’s run in Wuhan:
1R Maria Sakkari, 2R (8) Karolina Pliskova, 3R Daria Gavrilova, QF Monica Puig, SF (16) Ashleigh Barty, F Anett Kontaveit
About Wuhan Open:
WTA Premier 5 event
Total prize money: US$2.7million
Previous singles champions: Petra Kvitova (2014, 2016), Venus Williams (2015), Caroline Garcia (2017), XX (2018)
WTA Ranking points (singles): Winner = 900; Runner-up 585
Prizemoney (singles): Winner = US$503,725; Runner-up $251,860
Elise Mertens and Demi Schuurs are the new Wuhan Open doubles champions after a 63 63 win over Andrea Hlavackova and Barbora Strycova. The Belgian duo had double reason to celebrate since the 900 WTA Ranking points they got for winning the title also secured their place in the year-end BNP Paribas WTA Finals in Singapore next month. They also earned themselves $144,010 each in prize money.
Hlavackova and Strycova got some consolation from their week - by reaching the final in Wuhan the Czech duo did enough to ensure that they will be playing alongside Mertens and Schuurs in the elite doubles field in Singapore.
DONGFENG MOTOR WUHAN OPEN - WUHAN, CHINA
21-29 SEPTEMBER 2018
RESULTS - SEPTEMBER 29, 2018
Singles - Final
A. Sabalenka (BLR) d A. Kontaveit (EST) 63 63
Doubles - Final
 E. Mertens (BEL) / D. Schuurs (NED) d  A. Sestini Hlavackova (CZE) / B. Strycova (CZE) 63 63
*Serena Williams, currently ranked 11 in the Race to Singapore, will not play in Beijing and has not indicated an intention to play in Singapore.