World No.30 Elena Rybakina is the Hobart International 2020 champion.
The 20 year old defeated fourth seed Zhang Shuai 7-6 6-3 in her second WTA final in as many weeks after finishing runner-up in Shenzhen.
Rybakina started the final with an ace and was quickly out to a 4-1 lead before Zhang dug deep to force a tie-break.
The Chinese No.2 held set point, but third seed Rybakina managed to save the point and go on to claim the set in which she sent down eight aces in total.
Both players held serve early in the second set for the score to be poised at 3 games apiece, but Rybakina then went to work, unleashing her now-trademark powerful backhand groundstrokes to streak away from Zhang and win her second-ever WTA title.
“Today I was really motivated and I’m happy with the result,” Rybakina said.
“I was maybe more focused because it was my second time in a final (in January) and of course I wanted to win so much.”
“I managed to come back and win the (first) set, and it was not easy.”
“It was very close (the tie-break) and because of the wind I couldn’t take risks, but a few times I did and it went my way.”
— WTA (@WTA) January 18, 2020
Rybakina’s rise has been rapid, with the Kazakh jumping from No.191 to No. 37 inside the 2019 calendar year as she claimed a maiden WTA singles title in Bucharest as well as three ITF Circuit wins, including the Launceston International.
She will now be seeded No.29 in next week’s Australian Open, a fact that she’s well-aware of after ramping up her training program after failing to qualify for the main draw last year.
“Last year I lost first round in ‘qualies’ and this year I’m going to be seeded, so that’s great,” Rybakina said.
“We’ve worked a lot with my coach, and it was not easy.”
“Now I’ve had a great pre-season for six weeks, I feel much better than last year, physically.”
For Zhang, it was the title that was taken away in the final few games, but the world No.40 will leave Hobart with many admirers after her strong showing in both the singles and doubles draws this year.