Source: China State Council Information Office
Arnya Sabalenka made history as the first player to ever defend her crown at the 2019 Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open on Saturday, powering to a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 victory over American Alison Riske.
The first set was a much closer and more well-matched affair than the score line might suggest. Riske was able to keep up with her opponent’s volleying reasonably well, and there was plenty of it to go around in the opener, but in the end, Sabalenka’s raw power on both her service and returning games was too much for the American.
Sabalenka drew first blood in the match with some powerful backhand shooting down the line, breaking her opponent twice along the way to running up a 5-1 lead that, despite a few moments of brilliant tennis from Riske, she was powerless to overcome. Riske double faulted at 5-2 to hand yet another break to Sabalenka.
The second set saw Riske fare much better in keeping up with Sabalenka’s assault from the baseline. On Sabalenka’s first service of the set, Riske fought her to break point twice, and while she was unable to convert here, it set the tone for what was to come. Riske’s ability to come out on top in long rallies proved decisive throughout the second set.
Despite 83 percent first service shooting in the second set, Sabalenka started coughing up unforced errors (17 of them) and double faults at the most inopportune times, which helped Riske go a break up at 2-4 and summarily serve it out to force a decider.
In the third, Riske would double fault to hand her opponent break point, which Sabalenka capitalized on and converted.
Sabalenka’s serve really came to life in the breadstick third set. She never faced break point and fired off six aces, storming her way to a 5-0 lead and never looking back on the way to winning the decider in just over half an hour.
“I had one bad service game in the second set. Same thing happened in the first set when I was able to crawl back, get the break immediately back,” Sabalenka said.
Riske said, “I think what makes her serve really special … is she hits her spots extremely well. You might be covering wide, but she’ll still ace you wide. It’s like her accuracy is very high.”
Sabalenka takes home a prize pot of 520,615 U.S. dollars, along with 900 WTA ranking points. Riske will have to settle with a runners-up prize of 260,310 dollars, along with 585 WTA points.
With the win, Sabalenka matches the record of Petra Kvitova as a two-time champion here in Wuhan. Kvitova has two non-consecutive titles to her name, in 2014 and 2016.