The first dead rubber of the 2019 WTA Finals was not as “dead” as the name suggested, with the doubles teams of Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova, alongside Gabriela Dabrowski and Xu Yi-fan, putting up a late-night thriller for the fans at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Centre. The Canadian-Chinese pairing was already knocked out of the tournament while the second seeds already moved into the semifinals as the group winners coming into the match.
Nonetheless, playing for the sake of pride and valuable ranking points, Dabrowski and Xu put up their best performance in quite a while, stunning the second seeds in three tight sets for their first-ever win at the prestigious year-end championships in five attempts.
It was a fantastic performance from the underdogs, who came into the match having lost all four of their previous matches at the WTA Finals in the past three years. Losing the first set 2-6, it seemed like they will leave the tournament empty-handed once again. However, pure grit and determination allowed them to mount the improbable comeback and clinch the win, which will come especially special for Xu, who is playing in front of her home crowd.
Both teams had 13 unforced errors throughout the match but it was Dabrowski and Xu who stole the show with 26 winners as compared to 20 for Hsieh and Strycova, and despite this not making an impact on the group standings, it was one of the more entertaining matches of the tournament.
Dabrowski and Xu struggled in the opening set with Hsieh and Strycova dominating the net and strolling through the opening frame 6-2. However, once the fourth seeds earned the break in the second game of the second set, they were simply unstoppable. A crucial third game saw them bravely fending off four break points consecutively, and ultimately broke serve to clinch the second set 6-4.
Another comeback was needed as Hsieh and Strycova surged out to an early 3-0 and 5-2 lead in the match tiebreak, but Dabrowski and Xu battled back on both occasions, utilizing their variety and power to overwhelm their opponents, ultimately letting out a huge roar when converting on their third match point.