ZHUHAI, China - For the fourth time in her career so far, Aryna Sabalenka will play for a WTA singles title on Chinese soil.
The No.4 seed edged No.11 seed Karolina Muchova in the second semifinal on Saturday night at the Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai, setting a championship match with top seed and World No.10 Kiki Bertens.
The Belarusian advanced to the ninth final of her career overall and fourth this season, and came from a break down in both sets.
Despite losing serve in the opening game of each set, she battled back to seal victory in her first-ever meeting with the World No.26 in one hour and 52 minutes.
Sabalenka also saved a set point in the second set, on serve, as the Czech twice stepped to the line to force a final set.
Muchova was broken to love in the 10th game, and to 15 in the 12th, and also proved unable to extend an early mini-break advantage in the deciding tiebreak.
"I was just trying to stay in the game, try to just serve and take that game and then try to break her," Sabalenka assessed.
"I did it well, but then again my serve didn't go well, and then again break.
"I was just like trying to stay in the game as long as I can and just try to stay focused, and you never know what's going to happen, just try to get it done."
— WTA (@WTA) October 26, 2019
The former World No.9 was complimentary of the Wimbledon quarterfinalist and Seoul champion at the close of their nearly two-hour clash, highlighting the playing style that's seen the 23-year-old shave more than 100 places off of her ranking in 2019.
"I just want to say that she's playing really smart, maybe today was a little bit unforced errors from her, but she's playing really smart and she is using like slice from the backhand, top spin forehand, flat backhand," the Belarusian continued.
"It's a really great game and it's really uncomfortable to play against these kind of girls, but nothing really surprised me because I knew it's going to happen.
"I just watched her matches and I saw what she's going to do, so it's not like surprise. But I like her style."
— WTA (@WTA) October 26, 2019
The World No.14 improved to 15-2 on Chinese soil this season, as she will look to win her third title in the country this year against Bertens.
"I think China loves me and I love it too, so the results here are really good and unbelievable, so I'll just try to keep being here," Sabalenka said of her success.
"After the experience I had this year, I'm not focusing on the ranking any more, I'm focusing on my game and just to put everything on the court every time I'm playing. So that's where my focus is right now."
It will be a rematch of the pair's match at the Dongfeng Open Wuhan Open, won by Sabalenka in the third round in straight sets, en route to her successful title defense at the Premier 5 event.
"It's going to be really interesting to play against her," the Belarusian added.
"Every time we play against each other it's like a big battle, so I'm just looking forward to it and really can't wait to go on the court and play.
"It's going to be a touch match, she's a great player and it's always tough to play against her, so I just expect a great level of tennis and just, a big fight, maybe, big battle or something."