Garcia reigns in Wuhan
Caroline Garcia claimed the biggest title of her career at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open
The Frenchwoman emerged the victor from a ferocious duel with Ashleigh Barty 6-7(3) 7-6(4) 6-2 to capture silverware for the first time this season and she will climb to a new career-high ranking on Monday.
It may have been a final between two unseeded players however it was a championship match that didn’t disappoint. It took 2 hours and 45 minutes to complete, but it was the purposeful play of Garcia that eventually enabled her to pull clear in the deciding set.
Afterwards, the new champion said: "Right now, I just feel very happy, proud of how I fought today and proud of all the work we did. Sometimes, it was difficult for me after some good matches to keep it going but that's what I did great today.
"It's difficult when you just win after two hours 45 minutes to say exactly how I feel, but to win a title, it's always something very special. Premier 5, it's even better - for me, a title is a title."
Barty’s excellent run to the final included triumphs over Johanna Konta, Agnieszka Radwańska, Karolina Pliskova and Jelena Ostapenko but she was frustrated with how she squandered a promising advantage.
"I think my serve let me down when I was serving for the match,” admitted the Australian. “My first serve deserted me a little bit. I put myself in a position where I was only a few points away from a title.
"When I was serving out the match, it was just another service game for me. I try and do the right things and the best things I can. I just wasn't able to execute tonight.”
Elsewhere, Kateryna Bondarenko was crowned the winner of the Tashkent Open. The Ukrainian upset No.2 seed, Timea Babos, 6-4, 6-4, in one hour and 26 minutes.
It’s only the second time Bondarenko has been the last one standing at a WTA event and her nine-year wait for a trophy is finally over.
“The win here means a lot,” said the Ukrainian, who will climb back into the Top 100 on Monday. “I was practicing every day, my coach who has been with me for last two weeks helped me. I had been a quarter-finalist twice before, so I had some experience of playing here - but the draw was tough with six champions participating.”
At the China Open in Beijing, Maria Sharapova avenged her US Open defeat to Anastasija Sevastova – but only after saving a match-point with a gutsy forehand.
The Russian, provided with a wildcard, reached the second round with a 7-6(3) 5-7 7-6(7) success and compatriot Ekaterina Makarova or American Jennifer Brady will provide her next challenge.
Simona Halep began her campaign with a hard-earned 6-3 3-6 6-2 win over Alison Riske and Petra Kvitova downed Kristyna Pliskova 6-3 7-5. Angelique Kerber defeated Naomi Osaka for a second consecutive week and Kristina Mladenovic fell to an eighth straight defeat to home favourite, Ying-Ying Duan.
There were also opening round victories for Sorana Cirstea, Daria Kasatkina, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Daria Gavrilova.