No.8 seed Beatriz Haddad Maia captured her third and biggest Hologic WTA Tour title to date at the Huafa Technology WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai after defeating No.7 seed Zheng Qinwen 7-6(11), 7-6(4) in a riveting final.
At 2 hours and 51 minutes long, the final was the longest tour-level straight-sets match of the season, exceeding Yuan Yue's 7-5, 7-6(7) defeat of Marie Bouzkova in the Seoul quarterfinals over 2 hours and 49 minutes.
The trophy was Haddad Maia's first above WTA 250 level, first on hard courts and first since Birmingham 2022. She had come into Zhuhai having lost three out of four matches since injuring her hands in a freak shower incident in Guadalajara but rediscovered her best form to go unbeaten without dropping a set this week.
The final result, which was a first-time encounter between the two players, snapped home hope Zheng's eight-match winning streak following her own first WTA 500 title in Zhengzhou two weeks ago.
Currently ranked No.19, Haddad Maia will rise back to at least No.11 in the next edition of the rankings, which will follow this week's WTA Finals Cancun. Unless Barbora Krejcikova either plays two matches or wins one match as an alternate in Cancun, Haddad Maia will return to her career-high of No.10, which she originally set in June after reaching the Roland Garros semifinals.
"Today I was trying to be as aggressive as I was during this week," Haddad Maia said. "My mentality was very important. I was trying to be patient in the moments things were not going the way that I wanted. It's a very special week for me. When I came to Asia, I had stitches in my fingers in the first round of Beijing and now I'm finishing the season with a trophy in my hands."
Tiebreak twists and turns in set one: The 86-minute first set featured just two breaks of serve, both sealed with outstanding forehand winners down the line: Zheng drew first blood to go up 3-2, but was pegged back when Haddad Maia leveled at 4-4.
The set culminated in an nail-biting tiebreak in which momentum swung between both players for 24 points. Zheng won its first and best point, ending a rally with another forehand winner down the line, but it was the more solid Haddad Maia who took a 5-3 lead.
But the Brazilian's forehand wobbled momentarily, and she squandered her first set point with a netted backhand. Zheng roared back with a spectacular backhand winner to bring up her first set point.
The Chinese player even seemed to have luck on her side: Haddad Maia missed a putative return winner by inches on her second set point and on her third could only watch as a Zheng return dribbled over a dead net cord.
However, Haddad Maia's resilience in the face of adversity paid off in the end. Serving at 11-10 with a third set point, Zheng's first serve abandoned her, allowing Haddad Maia to take control of the next two points. An erroneous challenge from Zheng allowed Haddad Maia to convert her fourth set point.
Haddad Maia holds Zheng off in set two: Unsurprisingly after such a marathon opener, the intensity level of the match dipped at the start of the second set -- particularly from Zheng, who dropped serve in the third game.
But the 21-year-old kept clinging on to Haddad Maia's heels, roared on by a vociferous home crowd. She broke back for 3-3, only to double fault twice to lose serve immediately again. With Haddad Maia serving for the title at 5-4, though, Zheng found one of her most spectacular shots of the day -- a single-handed backhand pass hit at full stretch -- to convert her third break point and level at 5-5.
With the momentum on her side, Zheng came within two points of the set leading 6-5 and with 0-30 on Haddad Maia's serve. Once again, Haddad Maia was unshakeable in the face of the threat. A brace of superb forehands got her out of danger and into the tiebreak.
Rock-solid serving from Haddad Maia proved crucial as she won seven of the last nine points from 2-0 down. Zheng, fading slightly at last, coughed up two double faults, while Haddad Maia sent down three service winners -- the last on her second championship point.
Haddad Maia, Kudermetova win doubles title: Haddad Maia followed her singles final victory by joining Veronika Kudermetova to win the doubles final 6-3, 6-3 over No.2 seeds Miyu Kato and Aldila Sutjiadi.
It was the first WTA title together for No.1 seeds Haddad Maia and Kudermetova, the sixth overall for Haddad Maia and the seventh for Kudermetova. Both had previously won one WTA 1000 doubles title in 2023: Haddad Maia in Madrid with Victoria Azarenka, and Kudermetova in Dubai with Liudmila Samsonova.