ZHENGZHOU, China - No.1 seed Karolina Pliskova overcame rain, an early deficit and a nemesis opponent to capture a tour-leading fourth title of 2019 at the Zhengzhou Open, defeating No.7 seed Petra Martic 6-3, 6-2 in one hour and 36 minutes.
The final of the inaugural Premier event had been delayed by nearly six hours after torrential rain all day, and there would be two further breaks in play during the match.
It was the Czech who ultimately came through the testing conditions to take victory, striking seven aces over the course of the day and, from 0-2 down in the first set, winning 12 of the next 15 games.
Pliskova is the fifth top seed to win a tournament in 2019 and the first to do so at Premier level, following Aryna Sabalenka in Shenzhen, Alison Van Uytvanck in Budapest, Caroline Garcia in Nottingham and Anastasija Sevastova in Jurmala.
"I think I played good matches. Of course, not all of the matches were perfect, the week never can be really perfect because it's so many days and so many things can be just different every day," the Czech reviewed.
"I beat some good players, tough players, which I maybe lost to a couple times as well before. I think that was the biggest plus of this week, especially with Petra, I think I lost a couple times in the last times. These wins are always important, doesn't matter where you play, which tournament you play, but it's always important.
"Of course to get the trophy it's always special, so it doesn't matter really which week or how big the tournament is, it's always good."
— WTA (@WTA) September 15, 2019
Pliskova had lost to Martic in four of their previous five encounters, including a 6-3, 6-3 loss in the third round of Roland Garros this year, and when today's tilt finally got under way the Croat blazed out of the gates with a perfect demonstration of how and why she had dominated the rivalry.
Finding angle after angle to run Pliskova from side to side, Martic showed superior imagination in her patterns of play to seize an immediate break and move up 2-0.
But the first of the rain delays, midway through the third game, was a momentum-changer. On resumption, Martic failed to convert a point for the double break, Pliskova responding to getting out-manoeuvred from the baseline by simply hammering down three service winners - and thereafter, the former World No.1 warmed to the challenge in front of her.
"I think she played great the first couple games, so I was just struggling a little bit. The break which we had when it was 2-0, I think it helped me just to stay calm," Pliskova said.
"I talked to [coach] Olga [Savchuk] a little bit and I really started after better just being more aggressive, serving better and after everything kind of worked out."
— WTA (@WTA) September 15, 2019
Sticking with Martic off the ground, Pliskova won a magnificent extended rally to level at 2-2 with a scorching forehand winner down the line - and the same shot would fend off another break point against the 27-year-old in the seventh game.
As though rattled by the missed opportunity, it was Martic who then coughed up a loose service game, with her forehand suddenly letting her down three times to hand the key break to Pliskova, who wasted little time in serving out the set.
Martic was not short of highlight reel points today, with some forecourt brilliance drawing gasps in the opening stages of the second set - but not all parts of her wide-ranging repertoire were working at the same level.
A poorly executed dropshot gave Pliskova the opportunity to swat away a forehand for a first break point of the second set, duly converted as Martic went wide with a backhand slice.
By now, the Brisbane, Rome and Eastbourne champion's momentum was irresistible. Posting one implacably straightforward service hold after another, Pliskova's march towards the finishing line was unstoppable.
Even a second short rain delay during the fifth game could not provide Martic with a turning point: on resumption, the 28-year-old's groundstrokes were undone once again by Pliskova's consistency and depth to go down a double break.
There would be no coming back from that deficit for the Istanbul champion. One last flashy forehand winner saved a first match point, but yet another unreturnable serve from Pliskova - playing this week with Olga Savchuk in a coaching role for the first time - wrapped up the win on the second.
"Every tournament, every week you start from zero. This week now it's going to be over," Pliskova said. "Next week, I don't play anything so I'm going to just enjoy a couple days just rest and do some things, do some recreation and get ready a little bit more for Wuhan and Beijing.
"I just want to really try to play well this year, because I didn't the last couple years, actually. Of course, I'm going to feel confident, I'm feeling quite well, I think I played good matches, but like I said, we start from zero, so nobody remembers what was yesterday."