ZHUHAI, China -- CoCo Vandeweghe will end a breakthrough year on the WTA with yet another weekend appearance at an elite event after beating Elena Vesnina of Russia, 6-3, 6-2, in her final match in round-robin play at the Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai on Thursday.
The No.2-seeded American won both of her matches in the Bougainvillea Group, guaranteeing her a spot in the semifinals in Zhuhai. Vandeweghe told the press she "felt a lot better" against Vesnina than she did in her opening win over Peng Shuai. "I was feeling the court underneath me a little bit more."
Vesnina, who was struggling with a lower back injury throughout the match, was unable to overcome the methodical power game of Vandeweghe. The World No.12 blitzed her way through the 79-minute encounter with 30 winners, including 11 aces.
"It was tricky in itself, playing against an opponent that's obviously hampered," said Vandeweghe, "and you're just trying to kind of manage your own emotions with that and trying to keep your intensity, keep your focus, and that definitely gets a little bit tough."
Vandeweghe, who is fighting to end the year in the Top 10 with a strong run in Zhuhai, will therefore be one of the higher seeds in the semifinals on Saturday, matching her runs to the final four at the Australian Open and US Open in 2017.
"I have been talking with [coach Pat Cash] a bunch, and he's been very intense towards me about I work too darn hard to let these two matches slip," Vandeweghe told the press. "So that was kind of what I was tapping into for today's match."
Vandeweghe started strongly, holding her first service game at love, and then breaking Vesnina for a 2-1 lead, after the Russian hit two double faults in the game before hitting a backhand into the net to cede the early advantage.
After Vandeweghe held for 3-1 with an ace on game point, Vesnina took a medical timeout to have her lower back tended to. The treatment appeared to work, as Vesnina's play improved for the remainder of the set, having particular success with her drop shot.
But the Russian was never able to get a look in on Vandeweghe's serve. The American survived a tricky service game at 3-2 and held with an ace, and then held at love once more to lead 5-3. In the next game, Vesnina's double faults returned, and she hit two in the game, including one down set point, to give Vandeweghe a one-set lead.
Vandeweghe did not face a break point in the first set, as her serve never deserted her in the opening frame. But she swiftly found herself in trouble in the first game of the second set, staving off two break points before rallying to hold.
Vesnina began to find her passing shots as well, and hit a successful one off the backhand side to give her two more chances to break for a 3-2 lead. But Vandeweghe again deployed her power game to great effect, erasing those opportunities with an ace and a forehand winner, and took the 3-2 lead herself.
From there, Vesnina struggled. Serving at 3-2, a dire drop shot miscue on the first point set the tone, and she quickly dropped her serve at love. Two games later, a spectacular backhand crosscourt winner by Vandeweghe gave the second seed double match point, and she clinched victory on the first one via a wide Vesnina backhand.