Sabalenka Ends Singles Season With A Flourish, Wins WTA Elite Trophy

Aryna Sabalenka (photo: WTA Elite Trophy)

ZHUHAI, October 27, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)

Aryna Sabalenka’s third WTA singles title of the year – arguably the biggest one of her young career – ended her singles season with a flourish in China on Sunday afternoon.

Sabalenka, the No. 4 seed from Belarus, defeated top seed Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands, 6-4, 6-2, to win the Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai crown. It marked the third time that the 21-year-old Sabalenka has won a title in China this year, having previously lifted trophies in Shenzhen and Wuhan. She now owns a 33-7 career win-loss record in tour-level matches in China, where she has reached the finals in five different tournaments and won four of them.

“For the next season I would like to win somewhere else instead of China,” Sabalenka quipped to the media during her final Zhuhai press conference that followed her title victory. “But also I would like to keep winning in China. I’m really happy with this title and with the finish of my singles season. It’s really impressive.”

Bertens, who was seeded No. 1 for the first time at a Premier-level or higher tournament, came into the final with 54 match victories – most on the WTA Tour – was seeking her third title to go with two earlier triumphs in St. Petersburg and Madrid. She owned a 4-1 head-to-head win-loss record against Sabalenka before Sunday’s final. However, it’s been the Belarusian who now has won the past two meetings, including at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open in September, en route to her second Wuhan title. Sabalenka’s latest win over Bertens marked her third victory over a Top 10 opponent this season.

Sabalenka was relentless during the one hour and 16 minute final. She hit 17 winners to offset her 14 unforced errors and did not face any break points from Bertens. Meanwhile, the 27-year-old Dutchwoman committed 14 unforced errors and her 11 winners were far too few to make a difference against Sabalenka.

“I think I played a little bit more aggressive the last two times and stayed calm from the beginning until the end,” said Sabalenka, who was making her second appearance in the Elite Trophy tournament and came through this year’s group play undefeated. “That’s helped me a lot to break her serve and to be consistent on the game.”

Sabalenka broke Bertens three times, including at 5-4 to wrap up the first set. Then, she was successful in breaking Bertens on her next opportunity during the second game of the second set. Soon, with a consolidation of that break, Sabalenka led 3-0 and never trailed. She won on her fourth match point try, hitting a deep forehand that forced a miscue by Bertens. Sabalenka outpointed her opponent 61-44.

“I don’t know, I just stayed focused on each point and tried to keep this calm atmosphere inside of me, if I can say it like that,” said Sabalenka, whose third title victory of 2019 marked the most she’s won in a season.

“Next is Shenzhen, right?” asked Sabalenka. Indeed, it is.

Next, Sabalenka moves on to the Shiseido WTA Finals in Shenzhen where she and Elise Mertens will pair as the No. 1 seeds in the doubles competition, having won titles this year at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, at the Miami Open and most recently at the US Open.

Kichenok/Klepac win doubles crown

No. 2 seeds Lyudmyla Kichenok of Ukraine and Andreja Klepac from Slovenia upset the Chinese No. 1 seeds Duan Yingying and Yang Zhaoxuan, 6-3, 6-3, to win the WTA Elite Trophy doubles title. The winners wrapped up their victory in one hour and 19 minutes and outpointed Duan and Yang 61-51.