ZHUHAI, China -- The doubles competition at the Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai kicked off on Tuesday with a win by the No.1 seeds, as Raluca Olaru of Romania and Olga Savchuk of Ukraine outlasted the Chinese pair of Liang Chen and Yang Zhaoxuan, 6-3, 7-6(3).
Olaru and Savchuk were one of the hottest pairs at the start of 2017, finishing as runners-up at the Shenzhen Open in the first week of the season, before winning the Hobart International in the very next week. Liang and Yang have also had success as a team, finishing as runners-up at the Toray Pan Pacific Open in 2016.
The top-seeded tandem fought off a late fightback by the all-Chinese pair to claim the first round-robin win in the Lotus Group in one hour and 50 minutes. The Ukrainian/Romanian duo won 65 percent of points on their first serve, and over half the points on their second serve as well.
After exchanging breaks early in the first set, Olaru and Savchuk claimed a lead at 4-3 which they would not relinquish, breaking Liang with a volley winner by the Romanian.
The Chinese pair was broken a second consecutive time at 5-3, though not before saving two set points, the second with a Liang smash. But the No.1 seeds took the third opportunity to break for the set when a protracted point ended with Liang missing a routine volley.
The second set was much more competitive, as both teams tightened their play. Savchuk dodged two break points on her serve at 1-1, and in the next game, Yang had to fend off two of her own, but the first seven games of the second set went with serve -- a stunning turnaround from the break-laden opening set.
But a long game at 4-3 on Yang's serve went the way of Olaru and Savchuk, as the top seeds converted on their third break point to lead 5-3 and serve for the match. Unbelievably, though, after a pristine set on serve, Olaru could not hold on, and a Yang volley clinched the break to put the set back on serve.
Those were the only breaks of the set, and the teams progressed to the tiebreak. There, the No.1 seeds quickly asserted their dominance, racing to a 5-2 lead. A strong Olaru serve at 5-3 set up triple match point, and, on the next point, a Savchuk smash was too much for the Chinese players to handle, sealing the victory for the Hobart champions.