No.1 seed Aryna Sabalenka took home the title in Shenzhen as she beats Alison Riske 4-6 7-6 6-3 in a memorable final that neither player really deserved to lose. Playing her fifth WTA final in the last ten months the Belarusian, who won Premier titles in New Haven and Wuhan last year, claimed her first International trophy.
The American, projected to climb back to the top-50 at No.48, lost her third final in Shenzhen having previously been runner-up in 2016 (to Agnieszka Radwanska) and 2017 (to Katerina Siniakova). Something special happens to Riske in China.
Here she played five of her seven WTA finals and won her maiden title to date, in Tianjin in 2014. She showed a convincing performance in the opening set. Focused on making Sabalenka move as much as possible, she constantly served to the corners and opened up the court with down the line winners.
In the second, Sabalenka began to return more consistently although she got broken while she was serving for the set to 5-4. In a very entertaining clash that offered a really high level, the Belarusian continued, to play brave tennis and find the lines.
She forced a tiebreaker and completed the crucial minibreak to 2-0. Down 4-1, Riske lost the biggest point of the tiebreak. The American made three bad decisions and failed to create chances to get the minibreak back. It cost her.
Sabalenka played 33 deciders and won 22 of them in 2018. She opened the second she has played in Shenzhen with a break of serve. In the semifinals, Vera Zvonareva had to retire with a lower back injury as she trailed 6-0 1-0 to Riske.
The Russian, who beat the American in both their previous meetings at 2011 Wimbledon and 2015 Monterrey, was playing the second semifinal since her return from maternity leave in 2017, after Tashkent that year. Bidding for her first final since Tokyo in 2011, her movement worsened throughout the match and she ended the match leaving the court in tears.
Yafan Wang, bidding to become the first homegrown player to reach the title-match in Shenzhen since Li Na defeated Shuai Peng in 2014, looked hampered physically as well in her 6-2 6-1 defeat to Aryna Sabalenka, who completed 30 winners to 15 unforced errors in a one-sided clash.
The Chinese, playing her fourth WTA semifinal to date, has yet to reach her maiden final after she fell to Monica Niculescu at Guangzhou 2014, Nao Hibino at Nanchang 2017 and Timea Babos at Taipei City 2018. "Of course I'm so happy with this performance.
I would like to say it was not an easy match, because she (Wang) was always trying to get back into the game, even when she was down 0-5," Sabalenka said after her semifinals win. But that was just the beginning.
WTA Shenzhen - Semifinals
Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) d. Yafan Wang (CHN) 6-2 6-1
Alison Riske (USA) d. Vera Zvonareva (RUS) 6-0 1-0 ret.
Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) d. Alison Riske (USA) 4-6 7-6(2) 6-3