Peng Shuai won her second WTA title in as many years in her home country after she defeated Nao Hibino in the final of the Jiangxi Women’s Open, prevailing in straight sets. Having endured through a serious back injury two years back, Peng sealed her return to the Top 25 despite being ranked at the 768th position just back in March 2016.
Peng overcomes slow start to clinch the first set
Hibino won the virtual coin toss and elected to receive in the first game. It proved to be a wise decision as Peng had a slow start to the match, looking inconsistent on her double-handed groundstrokes. Whereas, the Japanese was rather solid at the baseline and often dictated play, earning the break of serve in the opening game.
Hibino then consolidated the break with the help of several strong serves and Peng’s misfiring backhand. Peng finally got herself off the mark when she comfortably held her serve to 15, getting herself onto the scoreboard. A shaky service game from the Japanese saw her hit a couple of unforced errors but she still managed to earn a game point.
However, another costly error saw Peng take advantage of the loophole and break straight back, much to the delight of the home crowd. The cheers of the crowd got louder as the match progressed, which spurred Peng on as the Chinese easily held her serve to love and took the lead for the first time in the match. Winning an incredible 11 straight points, Peng’s confidence increased with Hibino starting to misfire more often, gifting Peng the advantage.
The former Top 20 player was close to winning the first set after consolidating the break, opening up a huge 5-2 lead having won five consecutive games. Down 0-30 while serving to stay in the set, Hibino showed some great resilience when she saved an additional three set points to lessen the deficit, prevailing in a marathon game which forced Peng to serve out the set. Not disappointing her fans, the Chinese comfortably served out the first set 6-3 after 42 minutes of play.
Peng strolls to the win
Clinching the service hold in the opening game of the second set, Hibino looked to have found her best tennis as she regained some of her confidence. Unexpectedly, it was just a pure clinical display from Peng which followed as she claimed consecutive games to place herself in an advantageous position to close out the match. With great precision and consistency on her groundstrokes, the Chinese was firing on all cylinders and she managed to overpower Hibino during rallies.
Her aggression on her shots to just one game away from the victory after she saved a break point in the sixth game, disallowing her unforced errors from being too overwhelming. Despite Hibino earning a consolation game while serving to stay in the match, Peng’s serve was just too good as she successfully served out the match without facing any problems, holding her serve to 15 and clinching the second WTA title of her career.
Stats Corner: Peng was the more solid of both
Peng was absolutely clinical on her serve throughout the match as she lost just a mere nine points off her first serve in the 87-minute encounter. Furthermore, she only lost seven points behind her consistent second serves, disallowing Hibino from making any impact in her service games. Hibino was outclassed by her higher-ranked opponent as she claimed 41 percent of second serve points, with her first serve not being particularly efficient. The Japanese was erratic at the crucial moments, with 18 unforced errors coming off her racquet. Peng blasted 18 winners in the final and also hit fewer errors than Hibino, which was the crucial factor in deciding the victor.
Peng Shuai now makes her return to the Top 25 in the rankings for the first time since her career-threatening back injury back in 2015. This triumph also pushed her back into the Top 20 of the Porsche Race to Singapore leaderboard and returned her the status of being the top-ranked Chinese player. Nao Hibino rises 20 spots in the rankings after reaching her second WTA final of the year and now finds herself at the 72nd spot as she looks to break new heights soon.