Asia-Pacific Wildcard Play-off in Zhuhai saw 16 players from Asia and Pacific ranked outside the Top 100 in the quest for the title and the place in the main draw of the Australian Open. In the end, two players with a wild card battled for the title and it was the 16-year-old Chinese Xinyu Wang who defeated Abigail Tere-Apisah by 4-6 7-5 6-4 to grab the title and book her place in the Melbourne main draw.
Wang, born in September 2001, is currently the 6th best junior in the world and she is also in the Top 800 on the WTA rankings list after winning 6 matches on the ITF Womens Circuit. Thus, Xinyu will be the third player born in 2001 who had a chance to experience the action on the biggest tennis scene after Amanda Anisimova and Anastasia Potapova, and she certainly has a lot to show, especially with her serve and forehand.
Abigail Tere-Apisah comes from Papua New Guinea and this was a great chance for her to put her country on the tennis map (defeated the second and third seeds), serving for the win in the 9th game of the second set but losing 4 games in a row and missing a chance to prolong the match in the 10th game of the decider.
Tall Chinese dropped her serve at love in game 4 after a forehand error and Tere-Apisah was in the better rhythm in the first half an hour, blasting a forehand winner to move 4-1 in front. Wang held in game 6 with a forehand winner but she was still outplayed in Abigail's games, who moved 5-2 in front with a service winner in game 7.
The youngster had to dig deep to avoid another break in game 8, saving 4 set points, and she broke at love in game 9 to get back on the positive side of the scoreboard. Her efforts were in vain, though, as she got broken again in game 10 to hand the opening set to her rival by 6-4 after a poor backhand drop shot.
Xinyu left the opener behind her very soon and she broke at the start of the second set with an amazing backhand cross court winner. Her lead got even bigger when she scored another break in game 3 but Tere-Apisah pulled it back immediately in the following game to keep her hopes of finishing the match in straight sets alive.
That helped her to recover the momentum and she was back on the level terms after another break in game 6 thanks to a forehand winner, leveling the score at 3-3 and looking good to wrap up the win after she held in game 7 to take the lead.
Abigail had the finish line in her sight when she broke for the for the third time in a row in game 8, serving for the title in the next game. Wang was there to fight and she won 4 points in a row to break back and stay in contention, and this proved to be one of the pivotal moments of the match.
Chinese fired a forehand winner to hold at love in game 10 and she stole the spotlight from her opponent, breaking at 15 in game 11 to serve for the set. She sealed it with a service winner, conquering the set by 7-5 and forcing a decider, showing a mental strength of a true champion despite her young age.
Carried by the home crowd, Xinyu broke in the opening game of the final set, rattling off her 5th straight game, but her lead was a short one, as Tere-Apisah broke back in the next game to stay in the hunt. Both players served well in the next 20 minutes and the crucial moment occurred in game 9 when Wang broke with a backhand winner to move 5-4 in front and serve for the title.
This was the last chance for Abigail to pull the break back and extend the match, and she was on a good trail, earning 2 break points. Chinese unleashed 2 booming serves to fends them off, and she saved the third break point as well.
That was not the end of her struggle but the service was there to get her out of troubles, saving another break point with a service winner, and a flaming forehand winner gave her a match point. She seized when her rival netted a tough groundstroke to celebrate the title and start a preparation for the opening Grand Slam of the season, which will be her WTA debut.