NANCHANG, China - Sunday's finale to the inaugural Zhonghong Jiangxi International Women's Open offered a glimpse at the future of Chinese tennis, but in the end it was experience that won the day.
Top seed Peng Shuai was crowned a worthy champion after holding her nerve to prevail in an absorbing final that also announced the arrival of China's next star, Liu Fangzhou.
Ranked No.422 at the start of the week, 18-year-old Fangzhou was the final player to gain direct entrance into the draw at the WTA 125K Series event. And she has certainly not looked out of place, seeing off a string of higher-ranked opponents to reach the final, dropping just one set along the way.
And for a period at the start for the third set against Peng, it looked like she would be leaving with the silverware. Having hit back to take the second set after losing a one-sided opener, she brought up two break points in the first game of the decider with a brilliant down-the-line backhand.
Peng snuffed out the danger with two aces, before surviving a third when Fangzhou's forehand pass sailed a fraction wide. It was tit for tat for the next few games until 4-3 when Peng summoned her best tennis of the match.
A couple of brilliant defensive points from Peng piled the pressure and her teenage opponent wilted, handing over the break when a slashing forehand missed its mark.There was to be no fairytale comeback, and a few moments later Peng completed a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory when Fangzhou sent another forehand long.
Nanchang is the first WTA 125K Series tournament Peng has won and also the biggest singles title of her career. Despite finishing runner-up a six WTA events, her last silverware came nearly four years ago in Taipei, on the ITF Circuit, and she was understandably delighted to end this barren run.
"I'm very glad to become a WTA 125K champion for the first time," Peng said. "There were so many people staying with me right until the end and I'm really thankful for the passion they all showed today.
"I think it's been a good week for Chinese tennis and I really hope that it will help more and more people to take up tennis."