Sabalenka crushes Kontaveit to clinch Wuhan Open

September 30, 2018

Photo: AFP

A dominant Aryna Sabalenka thrashed Anett Kontaveit 6-3, 6-3 on Saturday to clinch the Wuhan Open in China, the biggest tournament win of her career.

The Belarusian cruised to her second WTA title, facing little trouble from Estonia’s Kontaveit, who was unable to reproduce the sparkling tennis she played on her way to the final.

The 20th-ranked Sabalenka had often been unplayable this week in Wuhan with her mix of aggression, clever placement and a scorching serve, and left Kontaveit flat-footed several times as she raced to take the first set.

Kontaveit tried to fight back in the second set, matching Sabalenka game for game until 3-3 when her resistance was broken and the Belarusian took three games on the trot to win the title.

“I try to be more calm on the court, not be aggressive with every shot,” Sabalenkasaid after her win. “I’ve started thinking more on the court.”

The Minsk-born Sabalenka is projected to climb to a career-best 16th after securing the Wuhan Open, a $2.7-million Premier 5 tournament which awards 900 ranking points to the winner.

Last month, the 20-year-old grabbed her first WTA title, winning the Connecticut Open, which is one category below the Premier 5 tournaments.

Her victory on Saturday not only made her the youngest Wuhan Open finalist and champion, but also the youngest player to win a Premier 5 tournament since Belinda Bencic won the 2015 Rogers Cup in Toronto at the age of 18.

‘Just too strong’

Sabalenka, who was 111th in the world at this time last year, has rocketed up the rankings since and will now head to Beijing to compete in the China Open, hoping to continue her Wuhan Open form.

Kontaveit, whose impressive run to the final included a first-round upset of world number nine and 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens, found Sabalenka’s power too much to handle.

“Her game was really aggressive and I felt the pressure straight away,” said the 27th-ranked Kontaveit, who has said her aim is to finish in the top 20 at the end of the year.

“She was just too strong today.”

The victory on Saturday also means Sabalenka still has a slim chance to qualify for the WTA Finals in Singapore next month.

Six out of eight spots at the annual tour finale are still up for grabs. Only world number one Simona Halep and Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber — who both failed to impress in Wuhan — have secured their places.

Qualification for the WTA Finals is one of the main targets for many players at this stage of the season, and nine of the world’s top 10 played in the 2018 Wuhan Open as the frenzy for ranking points intensified.

Earlier, Elise Mertens of Belgium and Demi Schuurs of the Netherlands beat Czech pair Andrea Hlavackova and Barbora Strycova 6-3, 6-3 to take the doubles title.