ZHENGZHOU, China - No.7 seed Petra Martic's year of milestones continued in fine fashion at the Zhengzhou Open with a 6-0, 6-3 defeat of Kristina Mladenovic in one hour and seven minutes.
In 2019 so far, the Croat has won her maiden title in Istanbul, reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal for the first time at Roland Garros and made her Top 20 rankings debut last month. Now, with her fourth win in as many completed matches against Mladenovic - including in both the Istanbul quarterfinals and the Roland Garros second round this season - Martic has stormed into her first final at Premier level.
"We played many times and we have known each other for many years," Martic said of her opponent. "So we know how we play, what to expect from each other, and it's always kind of a chess match with her. I'm happy that I managed to get that lead at the beginning.
"I'm really happy with how I played from the beginning until the end."
Though just a month apart, the Istanbul and Roland Garros contests were a study in contrasts: the former a marathon 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(2) triumph that, at three hours and 17 minutes, is the joint third longest match of 2019 so far; the latter a 6-2, 6-1 rout in just 65 minutes. Today's bout bore more resemblance to the pair's Parisian encounter as a flawless Martic turned almost everything she touched into gold against an error-prone Mladenovic. Dropping one point behind her first serve - and only 10 in total - the 28-year-old broke three times to whitewash her opponent in a 21-minute opening set.
Martic, who has spoken this year about how coach Sandra Zaniewska has helped her clarify her on-court identity, was razor-sharp in deploying her full repertoire. Dropshots, efficient finishes at net and quite magnificent control on passing shots whenever Mladenovic sought to move up the court herself were all on display - as was Martic's own pure power. Set point saw the World No.23 dance around her forehand to swat a dismissive forehand return winner down the line, her 10th of the set.
— WTA (@WTA) September 14, 2019
By contrast, Mladenovic would rack up 11 unforced errors to only two winners in the first set, along with five often ill-timed double faults - the last of which brought up set point for Martic. The Frenchwoman was unable to take advantage of any leads within games that might have given her a toehold in the match, dropping serve from 30-0 up in the fourth game and 40-15 up in the sixth.
The World No.49 gathered herself to make the second much more competitive, however. Although a rare opportunity on the Martic serve came and went in the first game as the Istanbul champion's serve bailed her out of trouble, Mladenovic was able to settle into a rhythm on her own delivery - and, in the seventh game, made another push to break in what would be the best passage of play of the match.
— WTA (@WTA) September 14, 2019
Stretched to four deuces and under pressure from the Mladenovic forehand and volleys, Martic showed signs of wobbling for the only time in the contest as her own forehand lost its consistency. Continuing to boldly strike out, though, the Roland Garros quarterfinalist would extricate herself from trouble without having to face a break point, holding with a booming forehand winner and an unreturnable serve.
Having once again failed to take a crucial opportunity, Mladenovic's resistance crumbled thereafter. A volley error was followed by a smash into the net that draw gasps, paving the way to the first break of the set as the former World No.10's forehand collapsed. A game later, Martic would serve out the win with a minimum of drama, sealing victory - and a date with No.1 seed Karolina Pliskova in the final - with her third ace of the day.