Sabalenka Wins Biggest Title of Her Career in Wuhan
(September 29, 2018) Aryna Sabalenka is the new Wuhan Open champion after winning the biggest title of her career with a dominating 63 63 win over Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit in Saturday’s final.
Twenty-year-old Sabalenka was making her debut in Wuhan and is the youngest winner of a WTA Premier 5 event since Belinda Bencic won the title in Toronto in 2015. She is also the youngest Wuhan Open champion in the five-year history of the tournament.
Her victory in Wuhan marks the biggest high so far in what has already been a breakthrough year for the Belarussian. The US$503,725 winner’s prize money check also made Saturday the biggest payday of her career.
“I was nervous today little bit, ” said Sabalenka. “You’re always nervous before the final because it’s different. But on the court I was pretty comfortable. I was confidence with myself.”
“She played really, really strong” said Kontaveit. “Yeah, from the beginning she put me under a lot of pressure. I think obviously my first-serve percentage was really low. That gave me I think a lot of trouble. I sort of knew what was coming. But it’s another thing playing against that. She’s a really good player, as her results have showed this year. Her game was really aggressive. I felt the pressure straightaway. That’s what she did better than I did.”
This time last year Sabalenka was ranked 111 in the world but since then she has won her first career title in New Haven and has now gone one further with victory in Wuhan. When Monday’s new WTA Rankings are released she is projected to be ranked 16. In winning Wuhan she joins Petra Kvitova (2014 and 2016), Venus Williams (2015) and Caroline Garcia on an illustrious honour roll of singles champions in the central Chinese city.
“I’m so happy to get this trophy. Last time it was just like a plate. I always wanted to have something special. This looks really cool. I’m so happy that I get this title. It’s the first final of this kind of tournament, first title.”
“This is one of my favourite places to play. I really enjoy to be here. Always play well here. I don’t know why, but I really play well here. Yeah, I’m always waiting for this part of the season. I always want to be here. I always want to play matches. I’m always so happy that I play well. Probably they have to think about having more tournaments in China, ” she said jokingly.
Taking the prestigious Wuhan title has put Sabalenka into the reckoning for a place in the BNP Paribas WTA Finals in Singapore, where only the best top eight players in the world compete. Her wins this week put her up to 12 in the Race to Singapore, with six places still available and plenty of further points available at next week’s China Open in Beijing.*
“Before Wuhan, I was really thinking about Singapore, that I really want to get in there. It’s makes me really nervous. Like, I couldn’t move on the court, I couldn’t do anything. Then when I was speaking with my coach, I understand that is not the main goal for this year. Then I start to be more relaxed. Now I’m 11 or 10. I don’t know actually. I don’t think about it. If I get in, I will be so happy. If not, what I can do? I just have to come on the court and play.”
In front of a packed crowd at the Optics Valley International Tennis Center on Saturday evening local time, Sabalenka showed no sign of nerves despite playing for the prestigious Wuhan Open trophy. Her clean, powerful ballstriking offered Kontaveit very few opportunities to impose herself of the match, while the Estonian’s own service games were often a struggle. When Sabalenka’s moment came she took her first matchpoint and looked every inch the champion.