Sabalenka And Kontaveit Vie For Wuhan Title

Aryna Sabalenka (photo: Xinhua News Agency)

WUHAN, September 28, 2018 (Press Release)

Belarussian Aryna Sabalenka and Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit will play for the biggest singles title of their careers at the fifth annual Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open on Saturday.

As well as a career-defining victory in a prestigious WTA Premier 5 event, on the line will be 900 ranking points and a winner’s prizemoney cheque of $503,725 and the chance to join Petra Kvitova, Venus Williams and Caroline Garcia on the Wuhan Open honour roll. This will be a first career meeting for the two women, both of whom were unseeded at the start of the US$2.7 million tournament.

Twenty-year-old Sabalenka – who is Wuhan’s youngest ever singles finalist – came from behind in a tight first set to overcome Australia’s Ashleigh Barty 76(2) 64 in their semi-final. Sabalenka’s trademark big-hitting was mixed with guile and patience and it proved too much for the talented Australian in the end.

“Well, probably was nervous and I couldn’t found my serve,” said Sabalenka. “Then, when I had nothing to lose, then I start to put it in. I was just, like, relaxed. Probably before the match I really, really want it. That makes me, like, crazy a little bit.

“Well, tomorrow it’s a another chance to take one more title. I hope I will come on the court without any nervous. I will just try to show my best and enjoy it. She (Kontaveit) has a good serve. Well, she’s a great player. She’s in the final. Of course, she’s great. It will be another tough match.”


Anett Kontaveit – photo: Xinhua News Agency

Kontaveit, 22, moved through to what will be the biggest WTA Tour final of her career on Friday when China’s Qiang Wang was struck by injury after the first set of their semi-final. Wang, who took the title in last week’s Guangzhou International Women’s Open, had her winning run on home soil ended by a left thigh injury. She was clearly hampered in the match and took extended treatment before finally succumbing at 26 12 down.

This marks an important week for Kontaveit, who knocked out former US Open champion Sloane Stephens in the first round in Wuhan. Her run to the final has put her within touching distance of the Top 20, while a win in Saturday’s final will secure a coveted place amongst women’s tennis’ elite.

“From the beginning of the season, the goal has been top 20 for this year. Yeah, it’s my first final this year. Of course it’s really exciting. My first final in such a big tournament, it’s definitely special,” said Kontaveit. “I’m going to have a good match tomorrow. Again, a tough opponent. I’m just going to try to enjoy it.

“I think my game was there the whole summer. Yeah, I just had some really close losses. This week I’ve been really turning them around. Yeah, I think the first match maybe gave me some confidence. I think I built well on that.”

Whoever wins on Saturday is destined to become Wuhan’s youngest ever singles champion. Last year’s champion, Caroline Garcia was previously the youngest at 24.

Belgians Elise Mertens and Demi Schurrs will take on Czech pairing of Andrea Sestini Hlavackova and Barbora Strycova will contest the 2018 doubles title in Saturday’s opening match (starting not before 4.30pm local time).

Mertens and Schurrs can qualify for the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore by taking the title; Hlavackova and Strycova’s Singapore spot was confirmed when they progressed to the final via walkover when injury caused the withdrawal of semi-final opponents Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (left thigh injury) and Anastasija Sevastova on Friday.

Quick facts on the singles finalists:
        Aryna Sabalenka        Anett Kontaveit
From:         Belarus                        Estonia
Age:           20                                 22
Ranked:     20                                 27
WTA titles: 1 (New Haven 2018)    1 (S’Hertogenbosch 2017)
Coach:        Dmitry Tursunov          Nigel Sears

Their run to the final:
Kontaveit: 1R (9) Sloane Stephens, 2R Donna Vekic, 3R Shuai Zhang, QF Katerina Siniakova, SF Qiang Wang

Sabalenka: 1R Maria Sakkari, 2R (8) Karolina Pliskova, 3R Daria Gavrilova, QF Monica Puig, SF (16) Ashleigh Barty

Fast facts about Saturday’s final:
WTA Premier 5 event
Total prizemoney: US$2.7million
Previous singles champions: Petra Kvitova (2014, 2016), Venus Williams (2015), Caroline Garcia (2017)
WTA Ranking points (singles): Winner = 900; Runner-up 585
Prizemoney (singles): Winner = US$503,725; Runner-up $251,860