Zhuhai - Big-hitting
Aryna Sabalenka was too strong for Ashleigh Barty in the opening
singles clash of the WTA Elite Trophy in China on Tuesday, taking the
match 6-4, 6-4.
The tournament's youngest player produced some typically aggressive
tennis in Zhuhai, showing the form that has seen her shoot up the world
rankings from 39th to 12th place in just three months.
Belarus's Sabalenka, 20, made the most of breaking Australian Barty,
22, in the very first game of the match, seeing out a nip-and-tuck
In-form Sabalenka looked the more confident of the two in the early
stages, and the third seed held her nerve to pull out her first two aces
to clinch the set.
Ninth seed Barty took the initiative in the second set, breaking in
the fourth game, only for Sabalenka to break back in Barty's two
following service games.
The pair produced some thrilling base-line battles for the spectators
at the Hengqin International Tennis Centre, but Sabalenka turned the
screw to see out the match in one hour, 26 minutes.
Their clash was their first round robin match, with both yet to play
eighth seed and world number 18 Caroline Garcia from France.
"I think I played well in the first set, and in the second set I
probably started to rush a little bit and make a lot of mistakes, and
kind of stupid mistakes," Sabalenka said after the match.
"But I think the game was quite good, just a few a stupid moments."
Barty said: "I'm disappointed not to come away with the win, but I'll
have another opportunity in the next few days to try and finish my
season on a real high."
Asked about the strength of the field in Zhuhai, the 2017
semi-finalist said: "It’s phenomenal. I think last year was good, but
this year's another level.
"It's really exciting for the women's game. We have the top 20
players in the world this year who are fighting right until the end of
the season, which is really positive."
In Tuesday's second singles match, fourth seed Elise Mertens from
Belgium comfortably beat Estonia's Anett Kontaveit, the 10th seed, 6-3,
Now in its fourth year the Elite Trophy features 12 players ranked
roughly from nine to 20. This year's total prize money is $2.35 million
across the singles and doubles tournaments.