Spain's Garbine Muguruza underlined her rise in world tennis on Sunday as she beat Timea Bacsinszky in straight sets to win her second career title at the China Open in Beijing.
This year's Wimbledon finalist overcame a slow start by both players to clinch it 7-5, 6-4 in 95 minutes and soar to a projected fourth in the world rankings — just one point behind Maria Sharapova.
The victory is all the more unexpected as fifth seed Muguruza, 22, retired from the Wuhan Open final against Venus Williams just a week ago, citing exhaustion.
– Japan Open: Wawrinka claims title, breezing past Paire
– China Open: Djokovic sets up Nadal meeting in final
– GALLERY: Top-13 men's Grand Slam winners ever
It caps an exhilarating tournament for the Spaniard, who celebrated her birthday with a cake on court and also sealed her spot at the year-ending WTA Finals during her run to the trophy match.
Muguruza recovered strongly from a losing position in an error-strewn first set as both players made heavy weather of winning their service games at Beijing's National Tennis Stadium.
Muguruza was rocking at 2-5 down but after holding serve with a rasping backhand down the line, she broke Bacsinszky twice in a row and gobbled up her first set point when her opponent flashed a forehand wide.
— WTA (@WTA) October 11, 2015
The second set was a much tighter affair but Muguruza grabbed the crucial break for 5-4 and she went to match point when Bacsinszky went just long with a hopeful lob.
And Bacsinszky, the Swiss world number 17, crumbled, hitting a backhand into the net as Muguruza clasped her hands to the face and fell to the ground in celebration.
The China Open is the second career title for Muguruza, who also won in Hobart last year.
Top seed Stan Wawrinka made short work of Benoit Paire to lift the Rakuten Japan Open title in Tokyo with a straight sets win.
The Swiss player took just over an hour to defeat his unseeded opponent 6-2 6-4, winning all four of his break points to ease his way to a comfortable victory.
Paire had upset home player Kei Nishikori in the semi-final but was no match for double Grand Slam title winner Wawrinka in the final.
Wawrinka, who won the 2014 Australian Open and the the French Open earlier this year, won his fourth ATP title of 2015 with victory in Japan and lies fourth in the world rankings.
Paire, who was bidding for his second victory against Wawrinka, had his serve broken three times in the opening set, managing to break back once.
One break of serve was enough for Wawrinka to take victory in the second set and wrap up the title.
— TennisTV (@TennisTV) October 11, 2015
Novak Djokovic brushed off David Ferrer 6-2, 6-3 on Saturday to reach the China Open final, where old rival Rafael Nadal stands between the Serb and a sixth title in Beijing.
Top-ranked Djokovic suffered the inconvenience of having his service broken for the first time at this year’s tournament but he still raced to his 28th win at an event where he is yet to be beaten.
In the women’s semis, established names fell to rising stars as Garbine Muguruza beat Agnieszka Radwanska 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 and Timea Bacsinszky knocked out Ana Ivanovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-1.
And on a cold day in Beijing, Nadal stared down his nemesis Fabio Fognini 7-5, 6-3 to reach his first hardcourt final this year as he searches to recover the form which brought him 14 Grand Slam titles.
Eighth-ranked Nadal, stopped at his beloved French Open by Djokovic this year, self-effacingly said the world number one was now a class apart despite his winning record of 23-21 in their head-to-head. “I know today Novak is not in my league, it’s a different level from me this year,” Nadal said.
“So for me be in the final is a great news and tomorrow is a match to try to enjoy and try to play the way that I want to play, and we’ll see.”
But Djokovic, who is now into his 12th straight final this year, dismissed Nadal’s assessment and said he was expecting a high-quality title match on Sunday. “I always expect a battle with (Nadal),” he said.
“I always prepare myself for the battle, no question about it. He’s the player I played the most against in my life. There are no secrets.”
Novak Djokovic beats David Ferrer 6-2 6-3 to set up a first meeting with Rafael Nadal since Roland Garros in tomorrow’s final. #Beijing
— Stuart Fraser (@stu_fraser) October 10, 2015
Ten-time major-winner Djokovic had been irresistible in his run to the semi-finals, dropping only nine games thus far and he soon had Ferrer gasping with two breaks of serve to go 4-1 ahead in the first set.
Ferrer, who won his 25th career title last week in Kuala Lumpur, conjured a break of his own but the stung Djokovic broke straight back and finished the set impressively in the next game.
Two more breaks in the second set put Djokovic on his way and despite a mini-implosion, when he double-faulted twice and was broken as he served for the match, a sixth break of the Ferrer serve earned him victory.
Nadal’s path to the final was much less smooth but he grittily outpunched Fognini, who has beaten him three times this season and with whom he had a furious on-court row in the Hamburg final in August.
Nadal denied an extra edge to the match in Beijing, but his lukewarm handshake at the net and apparent exchanges between his coach and uncle, Toni Nadal, and Fognini told a different story.
Nadal won the bad-tempered Hamburg final but Fognini stunned the Spaniard in last month’s US Open third round, becoming only the fourth player to beat him three times in the same season. “No rivalry at all. No, no, no. I don’t know what’s going on, seriously,” Nadal insisted.
“We had the issue that we had in Hamburg, and that’s it. No problems.” Fognini also said the Hamburg row was in the past but he indicated ill-feeling may remain against Nadal’s team and in particular his coach and uncle, Toni, who was seen angrily gesticulating courtside.
“What happened in Hamburg is past, for sure. But I have nothing to say (to Nadal). I have all respect with him outside and inside the court,” said the Italian.
“I was telling another time, the history (argument) was not against him, but against his team, especially the uncle. But is something that is really far away.
“If I have to do something, I do it in the moment. If I do it wrong, I say, ‘Sorry’. If I’m right, I’m right, and that’s it.”