HONG KONG -- A teen reigned supreme at the Prudential Hong Kong Tennis Open on Sunday, as 18-year-old Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine claimed her first-ever WTA singles title with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Wang Qiang of China.
"Yesterday, I felt very confident that I could win the title, but in the morning, I woke up and I felt a bit too nervous," Yastremska told the press, after the match. "I trusted myself that I can win, but I didn’t really get deep into those thoughts because I knew that when I go on court, I would forget about everything and just play point by point."
It was a dazzling display of fearless aggression from World No.102 Yastremska to dispatch Wang, the top-ranked player from China who had won her first two singles titles this year during her recent hot run of form. The teenager prevented the World No.24 from hoisting a third trophy of the season, racing to the victory after only 65 minutes of play.
In the first meeting between the two players, Yastremska consistently went for big serves and aimed for the lines, crushing 33 winners in the match to just 21 unforced errors. Wang was unable to conjure up any of her recent magic on return, converting just one of her nine break points.
"Before the match, if you feel it’s going to be really difficult, you up your focus level," Yastremska continued. "And when you go on court, you stay more dedicated to each point. That’s what helped me to stay that calm during the whole match."
Yastremska was the sixth teenager within an impressive up-and-coming crowd to reach a final in 2018, and joins Moscow River Cup champion Olga Danilovic as the second teenage titlist of the season.
After a handful of service holds to start the opening frame, the second half of the first set was a walk in the park for Yastremska. The Ukrainian cruised through the set from 2-2 forward, clinching the initial break to lead 4-2. Yastremska blasted forehands to reach 40-0 in that game, and took the 5-2 lead with an ace.
Wang sporadically exhibited the form which had brought her to her first titles in Nanchang and Guangzhou and semifinals in Wuhan and Beijing during the second half of the year, but Yastremska overpowered the Chinese No.1 on key points, slamming a forehand winner to queue up set point, and crushing a return winner to take the one-set lead.
Yastremska had a staggering 13 winners to only five unforced errors in the first set, while Wang could only muster up five winners, alongside six unforced errors.
After finishing the first set with a four-game run, Yastremska kept her streak going, fending off three break points to hold for 1-0, and then breaking Wang at love with a forehand winner to claim a 2-0 lead. Wang staved off a handful of break points in her next service game, but Yastremska still prevailed, breaking again for 4-0 with her eighth straight game.
It was only as Yastremska approached her first title that her play reflected her inexperience. The Ukrainian dropped serve at 4-0 with a clutch of errors, although she quickly broke Wang once more with a strong putaway for a winner on break point.
But Yastremska struggled again on serve, this time at championship game at 5-1. The teenager failed to convert three match points and wrestled with double faults, as Wang moved the ball around to hold four break points in the game.
However, Yastremska survived those break points, and claimed a fourth match point of the game with a forehand crosscourt winner. Finally, a huge serve forced a long return from Wang to convert championship point, and the excitable Ukrainian bounced to the handshake at the net before bounding into the stands to congratulate her team for a job well done.
"The last game, I don’t even remember," admitted Yastremska. "It was the most tough game during all the tournament, because in your mind, you’re visualizing the way you’re winning, you have this picture in your mind that you want."
"But at the same time, you have to stay right now, right here, playing this point, trying to be without any thoughts which can break your mind and your focus for the match point," Yastremska added. "That was the most difficult part for me."