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Sabalenka Retains Wuhan Title First Player claim back-to-Back title Wuhan

BELARUS’ Aryna Sabalenka (L) poses with the winner’s trophy alongside runner-up Alison Riske of the US after the Wuhan Open final on Saturday.—AFP

Sabalenka retains Wuhan title

WUHAN: Aryna Sabalenka became the first player to claim back-to-back titles in Wuhan thanks to a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 victory over American Alison Riske in the final on Saturday.

The 21-year-old improved her record at the event to a perfect 12-0 and joins Petra Kvitova as the only two-time Wuhan Open champions.

In a rematch of their final in Shenzhen last January, Sabalenka utilised her supreme power game once again to overcome Riske in 114 minutes in front of a 13,000-strong centre court crowd. She unleashed 18 aces and won 79 percent of her first-serve points.

Sabalenka Retains Wuhan Title First Player claim back-to-Back title Wuhan

Both players have enjoyed their greatest success at Chinese tournaments, with Sabalenka lifting her first Premier-level trophy in Wuhan 12 months ago – one of two titles she had previously won in China – and Riske reaching six of her nine career finals in the country.

Sabalenka had the better start, racing to a 5-1 lead before Riske slowed her down, breaking the Belarusian as she was serving for the opening set. The number nine seed was unfazed though as she converted on her third set point with a smooth volley winner to snatch the first set in 35 minutes.

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Sabalenka survived a 13-minute eight-deuce game to hold for 1-1 in the second set but dropped serve in game six to hand Riske a 4-2 advantage. It was all the 29-year-old needed to draw level and force a decider.

Sabalenka broke early in the final set and raced to a 5-0 lead and soon wrapped up the win to secure a fourth career WTA crown.

The world number 14 is now 29-6 win-loss in China and heads to Beijing next, where she faces either Daria Kasatkina or Peng Shuai in her opening match.—AFP

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