Top seeds Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka were knocked out of the 2019 WTA Finals Shenzhen as they ended the round-robin stages with a 1-2 win-loss record. They would rue their opening-match upset against eighth seeds Groenefeld and Schuurs as Sabalenka was forced to have a quick turnaround from Zhuhai, but their fate laid in the hands of the Chan sisters, who ultimately fell to the eighth seeds which confirmed their elimination.
Mertens and Sabalenka could have secured a place in the semifinals with a win but was unable to maintain their high level of play throughout their match against fellow Major champions Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic as the third seeds came from a set down to triumph in three sets.
It was an excellent match from Babos and Mladenovic who controlled the net game throughout the entire affair, firing 18 winners to 20 unforced errors. Mertens and Sabalenka, surprisingly, found just five winners in the match but committing 17 unforced errors in the process. A disappointing result to end what was a fantastic year for them, Mertens and Sabalenka will be looking to continue their success next year.
Babos and Mladenovic have already been confirmed as the group winners before the start of the day and will look to defend their title from Singapore last year. They will face the pairing of Samantha Stosur and Zhang Shuai in a repeat of the Australian Open final this year.
Babos and Mladenovic fightback to triumph
Mertens and Sabalenka were forced to retrieve from a break deficit twice in the first set, with Mladenovic unable to hold serve on both occasions. A team made up of two aggressive baseliners, the top seeds went all out on the return while Babos served to stay in the opening set, and their high-risk game worked efficiently as they were able to steal the first frame 6-4.
The second set was largely a one-sided affair as Babos and Mladenovic took authority of the match, finding the touch at the net and their doubles skills were certainly reflected on the scoreboard. Mertens and Sabalenka could not do much, and ultimately the match was brought into a match tiebreak.
From 4-4 in the deciding tiebreak, Babos and Mladenovic claimed three consecutive points and never looked back, with the Frenchwoman showing some nice hands at the net while Mertens and Sabalenka just could not engage in a proper baseline rally without producing an error. Winning six of the last seven points, the third seeds and defending champions sailed through the group stages without losing a match en route.