Aryna Sabalenka cruised past Wang Yafan in the semifinals early on Saturday and shortly afterwards got back to the court to spoil Alison Riske’s dream of finally winning the Shenzhen Open in her third Shenzhen final in four years, overcoming a slow start to beat the American 4-6 7-6(2) 6-3 and clinch her third WTA title.
In the morning, Sabalenka defeated China’s world No.70 Wang Yafan 6-2 6-1 to reach her sixth career WTA Tour finals and fifth since April 2018. The 20-year-old did not drop a single game and saved all four break points she faced in the second set. Riske got off to a flying start in her semifinal against wildcard Vera Zvonareva, racing to 6-0 1-0 lead before her 34-year-old Russian opponent retired with a left hip injury after 37 minutes.
The 28-year-old Riske began the final against Sabalenka impressively, hitting decisive and accurate winners that frustrated her 20-year-old opponent, and converted the second of two break points in the third game to take a one set lead.
The 5-foot-11 Sabalenka grew with confidence as the match progressed and converted her first break point in the fourth game of the second set to take a 3-1 lead. Riske fought hard to get back in the set, saving four break points in the sixth game and two set points in the eighth before breaking her Belarusian opponent with four points on the trot in the ninth game and holding serve to tie the match at 5-5. However, in the tiebreak, the American lost focus and gifted Sabalenka a number of unforced errors to set up a third set for the title.
The momentum was now well and truly with Sabalenka, as she broke Riske twice in the first three games to take a 3-0 lead. Riske, who has now gone six finals without a win, got a break of her own in the fourth game and threatened to turn the tie around when she got another break opportunity in the eighth game, but it was simply not to be her day once again. Sabalenka squandered two match points in the final game of the encounter, before finally breaking her opponent’s serve one last time with a powerful forehand drive to lift her second title in China, following last year’s win at Wuhan.
Sabalenka’s winning apparel: the Nike Winter Court Dress in bordeaux. (source: Shenzhen Open)