ZHUHAI, China -- Aryna Sabalenka’s terrific run of form in China shows no sign of stopping anytime soon.
The No.4 seed from Belarus finished off her singles season with a bang, defeating top-seeded Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands, 6-4, 6-2, to claim the Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai and win her third singles title of the year.
"For the next season I would like to win somewhere else instead of China," she joked in her post-match press conference. "But also I would like to keep winning in China. But I'm just really happy with this title and with the finish of my singles season, it's really impressive."
All of Sabalenka’s singles titles this season have come on Chinese soil, winning at Shenzhen at the start of the year, then defending her Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open championship last month. In total, four of her five career WTA singles titles have been won in China.
Bertens held a commanding 4-1 lead in their head-to-head rivalry coming into the final, but Sabalenka used all of her aggression to go for broke in her last singles match of the season, and attained the victory after one hour and 16 minutes of play.
— WTA (@WTA) October 27, 2019
"I think I played a little bit more aggressive the last two times and stayed calm from the beginning until the end. That's helped me a lot to break her serve and to be consistent on the game. I don't know, I just stayed focused on each point and tried to keep this calm atmosphere inside of me, if I can say it like that."
Sabalenka had 17 winners in the tilt, more than her 14 unforced errors. Bertens also had 14 unforced errors but was only able to muster up 11 winners on the day.
Sabalenka will now set her sights on the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen, where she and Elise Mertens will pair up as the No.1-seeded doubles team, having already claimed doubles titles at the US Open, the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, and the Miami Open.
The typically hard-hitting Sabalenka was gunning for the lines with even more aplomb than usual, and put Bertens in quick danger by reaching break point in the Dutchwoman’s opening service game. Big-serving Bertens, though, evaded peril by erasing the opportunity with an ace before holding on for 1-1.
Fiery shots from both combatants persisted as the opening frame wore on, but Sabalenka was the player who earned the first big chance at 5-4, when a perfectly punched volley was too much for Bertens to handle and gave Sabalenka triple set point. A forehand went awry to squander the first chance, but on the second, Sabalenka blasted a winning crosscourt backhand pass to seal the set.
— WTA (@WTA) October 27, 2019
The Sabalenka momentum continued as powerful service returns garnered her an immediate break of Bertens in the second set, and the Belarusian consolidated the hold to establish a 3-0 lead. At 3-1, Sabalenka got a break in her favor at 30-30 when an overhead clipped the netcord but was still sturdy enough to be a winner, and she fired a backhand winner on the next point to eke out a hold for 4-1.
After punching a volley to close out a 5-2 lead, Sabalenka saw three match points come and go in the next game, as Bertens fought valiantly to hold onto her serve one more time. But Sabalenka forced an error with a big forehand to queue up match point number four, and there, a deep forehand forced a long miscue to give Sabalenka another trophy in China.
"Next is Shenzhen, right?" she said as she plans to join Elise Mertens at the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen. "The expectation is just to do everything I can and to show our best level of tennis with Elise and just to do our best, that's the expectation."