WUHAN. China - Defending champion Aryna Sabalenka returned to the final at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open on Friday with a 7-5, 6-4 win over top seed Ashleigh Barty. 

In one hour and 43 minutes, Sabalenka recorded her first career victory against a reigning World No. 1, improving her career record in Wuhan to 11-0 overall. 

"Of course, I'm happy to be in the final. It was really tough match. I can't say that we both play on a great level. I just happy that I could find the way how to win this match, but it was really tough," Sabalenka said after the match.

"I think it means a lot for me. It feels even better than last year. Last year was the first time Premier final, Premier title. This year, it was really tough season for me. To get back on that level, it feels much more enjoyable."

Efficiency on break points proved key for the Belarusian, who will contest her third final of 2019 against either Petra Kvitova or Alison Riske.

Sabalenka converted three of the four break point chances she created in the match, sealing each set with a late break, and saved four of the five she faced.

Despite losing an early break advantage in the opener, Sabalenka won the last three games to take a one-set lead, and also won the last three games of the second set to seal her third career win against the Aussie in five meetings.

"3-4 [in the first set] was really tough game for me. I felt like she started play really well, like she's getting back on it," Sabalenka said. 

"I just tried to stay there, tried to put as much balls as I can, just try to save this game. Otherwise, it's 3-5, then for sure she'll take it. That's why she's No. 1.

"I was going for shots. I was trying to play with the discipline. It wasn't like a great level, that game for me. But somehow, doesn't matter how, I was trying to go there to put the balls in. I'm happy that I could handle this pressure from her."

Sabalenka will attempt to complete a sweep in Wuhan on Saturday, as she and partner Elise Mertens downed No. 4 seeds Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Demi Schuurs, 6-2, 6-1.

They will face the first-time pairing of No. 8 seeds Duan Ying-ying and Veronika Kudermetova as they look to win their fourth title of the season.

"This is what I'm going for. I don't know. Doubles helps me to find this confidence. I don't want to leave it. I want to play as much matches as I can to kind of be on this great feeling, like don't lose this confidence," Sabalenka said.

"Also doubles, it's really enjoyable to play with Elise. It helps me to relax, clean my mind, be ready for the next singles match.

"But if I can win both, like, doubles and singles in one week, it would be really cool. Why not?"