Zheng takes second career title at Zhengzhou Open

tennis15 October 2023 15:25| © Reuters
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Zheng Qinwen © Gallo Images

Zheng Qinwen swept to her second career title – her first on home soil – at the Zhengzhou Open on Sunday, winning a hard-fought three-set final and celebrating with an impromptu karaoke session at the trophy ceremony.

The popular 21-year-old capped an incredible week with a 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Czech seventh-seed Barbora Krejcikova to become just the third Chinese woman to win a singles title at the WTA 500 level or higher, after Li Na and Zheng Saisai.

This year marked the first time in WTA Tour history that three different Chinese women have won a singles title in a season, with Zhu Lin triumphing in Hua Hin, Wang Xiyu in Guangzhou and Zheng claiming her first trophy in Palermo in July.

After winning Asian Games gold on September 29, the 24th-ranked Zheng suffered a disappointing first-round loss at the China Open to Elena Rybakina, but she recovered remarkably by securing the biggest title of her young career 13 days later.

"That was such a special experience to win my first 500 in China, especially in Zhengzhou," said Zheng, who will return to the top 20 in the rankings on Monday.

Zheng was the first to break as she leapt to a 2-0 advantage but Krejcikova grabbed the next five games and took a one-set lead in 39 minutes.

Zheng's first-serve per centage was a shockingly low 29 per cent and the Chinese No 1 knew that statistic had to change for her to stand a chance against the former French Open champion.

The home favourite began the second set on the right foot, breaking from the start and carving out a 5-2 gap.

Her first-serve per centage was a healthy 68 per cent in that set, and she won 92 per cent of those points.

The final set was a tug of war, with the quality of play going up. Rallies got longer, and each player came up with incredible shots when their backs were against the wall.

A brilliant crosscourt backhand winner gave Zheng a pair of break points in game seven and the 21-year-old inched ahead 4-3 on a Krejcikova double fault, her sixth of the match.

Krejcikova struck back but she could not hold off Zheng, who regained her advantage and served out the victory in style, with an impressive one-two punch and three service winners.

"Definitely a tough day for me but it was a great week," said Krejcikova, who was bidding for a third title of the season from four finals contested.

Only Iga Swiatek (seven) and Aryna Sabalenka (six) have reached more singles finals than Krejcikova in 2023.