The 2015 champion Simona Halep and defending champion Katerina Siniakova in the Shenzhen Open final and they will both also battle for the doubles crown at the International-level tournament.
Romanian world No.1 Halep continued her fine early season vein of form as she completed a commanding 6-1 6-4 victory over compatriot and doubles partner Irina-Camelia Begu. The 26-year-old Halep was strong out of the gates, winning 76% percent of her service points and not facing a single break point in a one-sided opening set.
The pair exchanged breaks in the third and fourth games of the second set before Halep took four points on the trot against serve in the seventh game to take a 4-3 lead. World No. 43 Begu had two break opportunities in the next game to level matters but Halep saved both to stay in control. In the end, Halep, who has not lost to a countrywoman in over seven years, completed her win on serve with a powerful backhand crosscourt drive on her second match point in the tenth game of the set.
Playing in her dream semifinal against Maria Sharapova, Siniakova put in a performance to remember as she defeated her Russian opponent 6-2 3-6 6-3.
World No. 47 Siniakova started the match aggressively as Sharapova struggled to hold her serve, but the second set saw the tide turn, as Sharapova, backed by wild crowd support, did not face a single break point as she held on to force a decider.
There were no break points in the first five games of the final set, but when Siniakova converted the first break opportunity she had in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead, the writing was on the wall. Sharapova saved two match points in the eighth game, and another in the ninth, but there was no stopping her plucky 21-year-old Czech opponent, who slipped twice in the final point but recovered splendidly to complete the emotional victory.
Siniakova plays Halep for the second time in her career tomorrow at 2pm at Center Court, having beaten her in the second round in Shenzhen last year.
This was my photographer’s last day in Shenzhen this year. Now he’s off to Australia, so get ready for lots of amazing photos from the Sydney International!
MORE PHOTOS FROM THE 2018 SHENZHEN OPEN: