WTA Finals: Mertens and Sabalenka survive tough test
Mertens and Sabalenka celebrate their win | Photo: Clive Brunskill

Top seeds Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka got their Shenzhen campaign off and going after a disappointing debut on Sunday, rebounding from their loss to beat the talented and skilled Chan Hao-ching and Latisha Chan, the fifth seeds who are a danger at any tournament they compete in.

Mertens and Sabalenka were forced to dig deep for a tough 7-6, 6-4 win over the Chan sisters, triumphing in one of the tightest matches at the WTA Finals this year after an hour and 47 minutes of high-quality action. As a result, the top seeds will have the control of their destiny while the Chan sisters are out of the tournament.

Both teams pose for a picture before the match | Photo: Matthew Stockman
Both teams pose for a picture before the match | Photo: Matthew Stockman

Mertens and Sabalenka overcome a slow start to take the first set

It was a very tough start for the top seeds as the two accomplished singles players struggled on the slow indoor courts, with the Chan sisters dominating the net and counterpunching at the baseline well enough to surge towards a commanding 3-0 lead in the early stages. A solid service game finally got the top seeds onto the scoreboard but the Chan sisters looked extremely confident and determined, hoping to claim the upset.

Mertens was clinical during the crucial moments, saving her team from the brink when she sent down powerful serves to rescue three break points at 3-4 down. It was then her partner, Sabalenka, who served two aces, clocked at 187 km/h and 196 km/h respectively, to save consecutive set points and remain in contention.

The Chan sisters were unable to take their chances | Photo: Clive Brunskill
The Chan sisters were unable to take their chances | Photo: Clive Brunskill

The Chan sisters were looking to dominate the net and they did throughout the majority of the match, but there were lapses when they were rather erratic but still managed to save two set points on the return to send the set into a tiebreak. 

The set looked to be over when the Taiwanese duo played some of their best tennis to earn a well-deserved 5-1 lead, but Mertens and Sabalenka stormed back with some encouraging baseline play. Within a blink of an eye, six consecutive points went to the top seeds and they were able to steal the opening frame 7-6.

Top seeds boost their hopes of qualifying

The statistical board could showcase the aggression of Mertens and Sabalenka, who ended the match with a booming 31 winners to just 24 unforced errors as they slightly cleaned up their game as the match progressed. The Chan sisters played a clean match, finding 18 winners to 17 mishits, but it was not enough to overwhelm their opponents eventually.

The Chan sisters were able to draw the first blood and find the breakthrough twice in the second set, but on both occasions, they were pegged back immediately as they could not consolidate their advantage. Mertens and Sabalenka were simply clinical on break points, saving 13 of 17 through the entire match.

Sabalenka hits a volley | Photo: Clive Brunskill
Sabalenka hits a volley | Photo: Clive Brunskill

They were forced to retrieve from a 0-40 deficit in the seventh game before saving another two break points at 4-4, which could be the decisive moment of the match as the Chan sisters could have served for the set had they converted their opportunities. Serving to stay in the match, they were unable to fend off the vicious aggression from their opponents, ultimately being broken to end off the high-quality affair.