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Sabalenka beats Riske in WTA Wuhan final


AFP Wuhan
Aryna Sabalenka was in disbelief after she 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 player to have won the tournament twice.
"I can't believe that I defended this title. I couldn't even imagine that I would be able to do this," she said.
In a rematch of their final in Shenzhen last January, Sabalenka utilised her 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 was emotional during the trophy ceremony as she addressed her coach Dmitry Tursunov, after the duo briefly split following her second round exit in the US Open.
"Special thanks to my team, this year has been really tough for us, and I think because of Wuhan, because I was really afraid of this title and I defended," she said.
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. But the number nine seed was unfazed, and converted on her third set point with a smooth volley winner to snatch the first set in 35 minutes.
She survived a 13-minute eight-deuce game to hold for 1-1 in the second, 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 heads to Beijing next, where she faces either Daria Kasatkina or Peng Shuai in her opening match.
Meanwhile, Riske, who is set to break the top 30 for the first time on Monday, rued her missed opportunities in the Wuhan final.
"I'm really disappointed in my mentality in the third set. I think I could have brought more out of myself. Still moving forward, I think that's something I have to work on.

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First Published: Sep 28 2019 | 8:35 PM IST

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