Alexandrova wins maiden title in Shenzhen; Pliskova outlasts Osaka, faces Keys in final - GulfToday

Alexandrova wins maiden title in Shenzhen; Pliskova outlasts Osaka, faces Keys in final

ekaterina-alexandrova-Elena-Rybakina

Winner Ekaterina Alexandrova (left) poses for photos with runner-up Elena Rybakina after their Shenzhen Open final in Guangdong on Saturday. Agence France-Presse

Ekaterina Alexandrova won her first WTA singles title after the in-form Russian defeated Elena Rybakina in straight sets in the final of the Shenzhen Open on Saturday.

The fifth seed won 6-2, 6-4 in 73 minutes to begin her season and her Australian Open preparations with a bang.

The 25-year-old Alexandrova, ranked a career-high 34th in the world, collapsed to her knees after dismissing Rybakina, the seventh seed from Kazakhstan.

“I didn’t expect the first set to be so easy so I knew the second set would be so much tougher,” said Alexandrova, who is poised for the top 30 in the world.

“In the second set I think she played well but after I got the break to make it 4-4, she got a bit nervous. “It feels amazing to win my first title, I don’t know what to say. The first title is always special.”

Alexandrova, who triumphed in a WTA 125K event in Limoges, France last month, defeated former world number one Garbine Muguruza in the semi-finals in southern China.

Meanwhile, world number two Karolina Pliskova will defend her Brisbane International title after edging Naomi Osaka in an epic three-set semi-final at Pat Rafter Arena on Saturday.

Pliskova triumphed 6-7 (10/12), 7-6 (7/3), 6-2 win in a two hour, 48 minute marathon and will play eighth seed American Madison Keys in the decider.

She was forced to come from a set down, then save a match point at 5-6 in the second, before seeing off the reigning Australian Open champion.

The two are no strangers to long matches against each other — Osaka edged Pliskova 6-4 in the third in the Australian Open semi-finals on her way to the title. But few could have expected a match of this quality and length in the first tournament of the year. With both players serving exceptionally well, the first set almost inevitably went to a tiebreak, which Osaka clinched on her fifth set point.

The second set was a repeat of the first with few opportunities to break until Pliskova faltered at 5-5 to give Osaka the chance to serve for the match.

She came from 0-30 down to 40-30, but Pliskova rallied, saved match point and then broke Osaka to send the set to a tiebreak.

Osaka then saw the third set slip away with two service breaks.

In the first semi-final, Keys held firm when it counted to defeat two tie Wimbledon champion Kvitova 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 and make her first Brisbane final.

After losing the first set and being down an early break in the second, Keys began to serve more effectively and find her range with her groundstrokes against an increasingly nervous Kvitova.

From 0-2 down and staring a semi-final exit in the face, the eighth seeded Keys broke back to make it 2-2 and surged ahead to level the match.

Both players struggled to hold serve in the final set -- there were five service breaks in a row -- but at 5-3 Keys held her nerve and from 0-30 she won four points in a row to become the first American into a Brisbane final since Serena Williams won the title in 2014.

Serena delivered a masterclass in her semi-final at the WTA Auckland Classic on Saturday, needing only 43 minutes to down rising star Amanda Anisimova and set up a showdown against Jessica Pegula.

The unsung and unseeded Pegula stunned Caroline Wozniacki in a three-set semi-final 3-6, 6-4, 6-0.

Top-seed Williams, at her imperious best, rapidly eliminated third-seed Anisimova 6-1, 6-1.

It highlighted the gulf between the 38-year-old, the women’s Tennis figurehead for the past two decades, and the next generation of players led by the 18-year-old Anisimova.

The mother of two-year-old Olympia said she had been working hard to juggle Tennis and motherhood as she targets a 24th Grand Slam at the Australian Open later in the month.

She was all power and precision as she dominated the centre of the court and moved the teenager around, running down Anisimova’s drop shots and blunting opportunities for the young player to unleash her telling forehand.

Agencies