ZHUHAI, China -- No.4 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus claimed the last remaining semifinal spot at the Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai, outlasting No.6 seed Elise Mertens of Belgium 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, to win the Rose Group and reach the final four.

In a bruising battle between the two members of this season’s top doubles team -- the US Open champions will pair up as the No.1 seeds at next week’s Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen -- Sabalenka clinched victory in two hours and 20 minutes, leveling their singles head-to-head at 2-2.

"It was a really great match today, [Mertens] played really great, and it was a really great level, and I think I was a little bit more lucky in the last few games," Sabalenka said, during her post-match press conference.

"And I really am happy to be on the same side next week, it's going to be good, I think, and I just can't wait to play with her against some girls," the Belarusian laughed.

The Belarusian continues her rich vein of form in China with her entry into the Zhuhai semifinals. Three of Sabalenka’s four career WTA singles titles have come in China, including a successful title defense at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open last month. Overall, Sabalenka has a win-loss record of 31-7 on Chinese soil.

Each player had four service breaks in the match while fending off a majority of the break points they faced -- Mertens saved seven break points while Sabalenka saved nine. In the end, Sabalenka won 73 percent of her first service points to eke out the victory, despite ten double faults during the encounter.

"I just said before the tournament that there was a little bit disappointment that we were in the same group, I would like to play final against her, it would be a really nice battle," Sabalenka admitted. "But even today was a great fight, great battle and I was enjoying every second on the court."

Sabalenka will now tussle with Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic for a spot in the prestigious final. Wimbledon quarterfinalist Muchova notched her semifinal place with a grueling three-set win of her own, over No.2 seed Sofia Kenin of the United States earlier on Friday.

"I just watched a couple of points from today's match and I would like to say that [Muchova is] a great player and it's going to be a tough match, and I'm just looking forward to what's going to happen tomorrow," said Sabalenka. "We never [played] each other and I didn't speak with my coach yet about her, so we'll see. But anyway, she's a great one, she's a great player."

The smooth style of Mertens put Sabalenka in early first-set trouble as the Belarusian faced four break points at 2-2, but the hard-hitting play of Sabalenka helped her erase those chances and come through a 10-minute game with a hold for 3-2. Mertens continued to ease through her own service games, knocking off a volley for 3-3, then cruising to a love hold for 4-4.

Sabalenka, at this juncture, still kept her composure while blasting the ball, emerging the winner in a couple of lengthy rallies to hold for 5-4. Sabalenka then went for broke with big returns at the start of the next game and was quickly rewarded with an 0-40 lead and triple set point. Mertens saved two, but on the third, Sabalenka closed out a rally with a forehand winner to take the opener.

Mertens turned the tables early in the second set, though, firing a forehand winner to attain triple break point at 1-1. Sabalenka fought off two chances, but shot an unforced error long on the third to cede the early break to the Belgian. Mertens held tight to that lead, surviving a break point before holding for 4-2 with a stirring angled passing winner.

The unforced error count rose for Sabalenka as the set progressed, and she handed a set point to Mertens at 5-3 with a netted backhand miscue. Mertens ended up taking the set after Sabalenka hit one last unforced error into the net, and the Belgian found herself level at one set apiece with her doubles partner.

Sabalenka righted the ship early in the decider, going up a break for 2-1 after Mertens double faulted on the fourth break point of that game. However, Sabalenka could not keep her unforced errors under control when she needed to most, and handed the break back immediately.

The Belarusian then went up a break once more, claiming a 5-4 lead after extending a rally with tremendous defense before firing a wicked forehand down the line for a clean winner. However, Mertens fought back once more, as the Belgian pulled out incredible defense of her own while Sabalenka was serving for victory, and she leveled the match at 5-5.

Sabalenka, though, broke again in the next game after Mertens missed a forehand putaway while down break point. With a second chance to serve out the match, Sabalenka saw miscues erase two match points, and Mertens reached break point to queue up a decisive tiebreak. 

Nevertheless, Sabalenka staved the break point off with big hitting, culminating with a crosscourt backhand winner to pull back to deuce. A strong serve set up the Belarusian’s third match point, which she converted at last with an error-forcing forehand.