HONG KONG—A young Ukraine girl, Dayana Yastremska, tore the final of the Prudential Hong Kong Tennis Open apart last Sunday afternoon. From the first few ground strokes that she hit it was plain that she was a rather special prospect. Powerful accurate, well directed topspin shots with a lot of weight, shot past her opponent signaling what was to come. She had set her marks throughout Hong Kong’s major tennis event, but nothing exceptional to that point.
Looking at her career to date it might have given more of a clue. At 15, she was ranked 6 in girls’ tennis, reaching the final of girl’s Wimbledon but losing to Anastasia Potapova of Russia in the final.
She made steady progression in ITF and WTA tournaments in 2016 and 2017, made her senior grand slam debut in the Australian Open qualifiers this year, she then qualified in Acapulco but injured an ankle in the first round. She entered the Wimbledon qualifiers this year but lost in round 2. She then played the Volvo ITF Tournament in Rome, won easily in the early rounds including beating Anastasia Potapova 6/1, 6/0, in impressive fashion. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sV7zd4YapkE
After strong performances in the ITF events particularly this summer she reached a WTA ranking of 100, the first post-2000 year girl to do so, after winning in Hong Kong her WTA ranking is now 66.
Playing unseeded in the middle of the draw she beat qualifier Fanny Stoller 6/4, 6/4 in the first round, then beat Zheng Saisai 6/3, 6/3 in round two. In the quarter final she took out Kristina Kucova of Slovakia 7/6, 6/2 and in the semi-final she overcame Zhang Shuai the Chinese number two 7/5, 6/4.
Her opponent in the final China’s number one player Wang Qiang, seeded 6 and ranked 23 in the world, had a tougher draw. She beat fellow Chinese wild card entry Zhang Ling 6/0, 6/2 in round one, in round two she overcame American, Christina McHale 7/5, 6/1 and in the quarter final she took out the number 1 seed, Elina Svitolina 6/2, 6/4. Wang played with confidence, served exceptionally well and hit many accurate ground strokes to win the match. Admittedly Svitolina is playing in the Women’s World Finals in Singapore next week and she may have been saving herself a little for that, but in the match Svitolna looked committed and competed well. I was very impressed by Wang’s performance and honestly thought she could win the tournament. In the semi-final Wang met another top seed Gabine Mugarusa of Spain. Mugarusa was looking all set to win the tournament but Wang came back from a set down to take the match 6/7, 6/4, 7/5. This gave me an increased feeling that she could go all of the way.
I was really looking forward to a good balanced final expecting it to go the distance, but that was not the case. The first set went with serves in the early stages but by the time Yastremska was leading 3/2 Wang’s body language had deteriorated from one of confidence to one of insecurity and despair. The power, placement and accuracy of Yastremska’s ground stokes were just too good, and if Yastremska could maintain that level of play, Wang seemed to doubt if she could complete. Wang had some good service games and broke Yastremska late in the second set. But Yastremska fought through a tough final service game, with many double faults and 3 deuces before winning the match 6/2, 6/1.
The Ukrainian is still very young she occasionally missed her footing and seemed to lose her game under pressure when serving for the match but on clay in Rome her footwork was fine and she served out the match with confidence. She is only just starting her Pro career and has much time to progress and improve – a super new addition to women’s tennis, and certainly a name to watch for.
She left soon after the finish to play in this week’s Luxembourg Open (Oct 15 – 20). She is in the lower half of the draw and may meet number two seed Gabine Mugarusa in round two.