The opening day of the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai saw three exciting encounters and the triumphs for Kiki Bertens, Aryna Sabalenka and Saisai Zheng. After just missing the WTA Finals cut, Bertens is the top seed in Zhuhai and she toppled Donna Vekic 7-6, 6-2 in just under two hours for a winning start.
It was their fourth encounter of the season and the third victory for the Dutch who fended off six out of eight break chances and scored four breaks to cross the finish line in straight sets and avoid more time spent on the court.
The opening set lasted for more than 80 minutes and it was open war, with Vekic taking an early lead before Bertens pulled the break back at 2-3 to level the score and saved four break points in the next game to remain on the positive side of the scoreboard until the tie break that she won 7-5.
That gave her a massive momentum, racing into a 5-0 lead in set number two and sealing the deal with a hold at love at 5-2 for the first victory of the competition. The 4th seed Aryna Sabalenka took down Maria Sakkari 6-3, 6-4 in an hour and 19 minutes, beating the Greek for the first time in two matches.
Aryna lost 17 points in ten service games, repelling all five break points and pushing the opponent to the limits on the second serve to score one break in each set and cross the finish line in under 80 minutes. The Belarusian had to dig deep in the third game when she erased those break chances, experiencing no troubles behind the initial shot in the rest of the encounter and taking the last three games of the opener for a 6-3.
The Greek stayed in touch in the second set until 4-4 but the pressure was on her shoulders all the time, with one rock-solid service game after another for Sabalenka who eventually grabbed a break at 4-4 and finished the job on own serve in the next game.
The home favorite Saisai Zheng used the wild card with both hands on an opening day, toppling the 3rd seed Madison Keys 6-4, 6-2 in an hour and 31 minutes. The American never found the rhythm on serve, playing against 14 break chances and giving serve away six times while delivering only three breaks, not enough for a more favorable result.
The opening set lasted 55 minutes despite only ten games, with numerous deuces in the first half of the set and four breaks in the opening six games. Zheng grabbed another one at 3-3 and saved a break chance in the tenth game for a 6-4, rattling off the first five games of the second set and sealing the deal with a hold at 5-2 for the first victory over Keys, playing the only previous match here in Zhuhai four years ago.