The final Premier 5 event of the season brings almost all the best players in the world and packed schedule from the very first day. On Sunday, Simona Halep, Naomi Osaka and Elina Svitolina were all on the court, passing the primary obstacles to book a place in the second round.
After a rock-solid performance in the final at home in Osaka seven days ago, the 4th seed Naomi Osaka defeated Jessica Pegula 6-3, 7-6 in an hour and 31 minutes after a very tight second set. Both players had four break chances and it was the Japanese who converted three, suffering two breaks in her games and managing to bring the victory home without having to play a decider.
Performing well on both serve and return, Naomi raced into a 5-1 lead with breaks in games four and six, getting broke while serving for the set before closing it two games later with a hold at love for a 6-3. Pegula shifted into a higher gear in set number two, serving well and wasting a break point in games four and six before Osaka stole her serve at 5-5, serving for the win in the next game.
The American fought back to level the score at 5-5, staying competitive in the tie break and leading 5-4 when Osaka grabbed the last three points to move over the top and seal the deal in straight sets. The young gun Dayana Yastremska had a great week in Wuhan and the form is still here, toppling Caroline Garcia 6-1, 6-1 in 54 minutes.
In the final in Strasbourg earlier this season, they had pushed each other to the limits and that wasn't the case today, with the Ukrainian suffering one break and taking 65% of the return points for six breaks from eight opportunities that propelled her through.
Dayana had the upper hand from start to finish, breaking Garcia's serve three times in the opener and taking 20 of the last 27 points in set number two to race over the finish line in style. Venus Williams needed two hours and 31 minutes to oust Barbora Strycova 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 for the fifth victory over the Czech in as many encounters.
The American won six points more than her rival, getting broken four times and earning five breaks from 12 chances to prevail and make a winning start. After a challenging opening game with a couple of deuces, Venus hit the zone behind the initial shot, defending her serve nicely and securing a break in game six that gave her the opener.
The second set lasted for an hour and Strycova came back from 4-2 down, saving break chances in the seventh game and taking four straight games to stage a comeback and force the decider. With the momentum on her side, Barbora gained a 5-3 advantage in the final set, moving closer to the finish line before Venus bounced back with breaks in games nine and 11, taking the lead and sealing the deal with a hold in game 12 that propelled her into the second round.
Qiang Wang led 7-5, 5-4 against Ajla Tomljanovic before she had to retire while Andrea Petkovic beat Jil Teichmann 7-6, 6-3 to join the victorious players on Sunday.