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Sabalenka vs Wang tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Sabalenka pulling double duty at Shenzhen Open

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 4 Jan 2019
  • Aryna Sabalenka takes on home favourite Wang Yafan in the semifinals of the Shenzhen Open
  • Sabalenka vs Wang is live from Shenzhen on Saturday at 10am local/2am GMT
Aryna Sabalenka (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Aryna Sabalenka has her sights set on her first WTA final of 2019 as she takes on Wang Yafan at the Shenzhen Open on Saturday.

World no. 13 Aryna Sabalenka could be in for double duty on Saturday if she wants to win her first title of 2019 at the Shenzhen Open – but her first task is to win her semifinal against Wang Yafan.

Thanks to rain which all but washed out play in Shenzhen on Thursday, Sabalenka’s quarterfinal against Maria Sharapova was pushed to Friday and the congested schedule means that if the Belarusian wants to win the title, she’ll have to first win her semifinal against Wang and then return a matter of hours later to face either Alison Riske or Vera Zvonareva in the final.

Fortunately for Sabalenka, the match against Sharapova was a truncated affair, although they still played most of two sets before the Russian retired trailing 1-6, 2-4. Sabalenka had lost their only previous encounter, which came in her very first WTA Tour final in Tianjin in 2017, but the meteoric rise the Belarusian experienced in 2018 meant that she came into this clash as the higher-ranked and clearly more confident player, racing through the first set and then quickly bouncing back from a break down in the second. 

Sharapova was clearly struggling, with her shoulder heavily taped, and received an off-court medical timeout between sets before pulling the plug due to a left thigh injury late in the second. 

‘I think we both played well - and then she got injured,’ Sabalenka said. ‘Hopefully she will get well soon!’

Sabalenka really has just seemingly picked up where she left off in 2018, a season which saw her shoot up the rankings from outside the top 70 to a career-high ranking of world no. 11 in October, winning her first titles in New Haven and Wuhan and narrowly missing out on qualifying for the WTA Finals Singapore. Her solid run in Shenzhen suggests the intriguing possibility that appearances in that city might bookend her year – the WTA Finals will be played in Shenzhen from 2019, and Sabalenka, who came very close to making the elite eight-woman field last year, will certainly have her sights set on it this year. 

‘I will do my best in the season to get to the Finals here!’ Sabalenka said after Sharapova’s retirement. 

‘Last year I was so close, and so upset in the beginning when I did not make it - but this year I'm going to do my best, even better than last year.’

Next up for Sabalenka is China’s Wang Yafan, who is aiming to become the first Chinese player to reach the final in Shenzhen since Li Na and Peng Shuai played an all-Chinese final there in 2014.

Wang Yafan (-/AFP/Getty Images)
After missing the first five months of the 2017 season, Wang had a very successful 2018 which saw her climb from world no. 172 to her current career-high ranking of world no. 70. Part of this success came on the ITF Tour – she won the Liuzhou $60k and made the final of the $60k in Jinan – but there was also a lot of it on the WTA Tour. Not only did Wang finish runner-up to Zheng Saisai at the WTA 125k in Zhengzhou in April, but she was a semifinalist at the WTA International in Taipei in February and, most impressively, made the round of 16 at the Miami Open after qualifying for the main draw, beating Marketa Vondrousova, Carla Suarez Navarro and Alison Riske before losing in three sets to Angelique Kerber.

Wang also made the quarterfinals of Bucharest and finished the year by doing the same at the Shenzhen $100k, so the 24-year-old really did compile a solid year across various levels and she has picked up right where she left off in 2019 – not just because she’s playing in Shenzhen again but because she’s into the semifinals with three very solid wins. First she dropped just one game against the ever-puzzling Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, then overcame Ons Jabeur and Monica Niculescu – two very tricky players – in three sets each to make the final four.

Sabalenka is a totally different kind of player than Jabeur and Niculescu, both of whom rely on choppy changes of rhythm. It’s the first meeting between the two and the match-up favours Sabalenka, with aggressive power players usually having a straightforward time of it against Wang, who hits hard but not quite hard enough to go toe-to-toe with them. The unknown for Sabalenka is how the top seed will handle the pressure of needing a straightforward victory to conserve energy to play a final later in the day.

Sabalenka vs Wang tennis is live from Shenzhen on Friday at 10am local/2am GMT

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Sabalenka vs Wang tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Sabalenka pulling double duty at Shenzhen Open

Aryna Sabalenka vs Wang Yafan live streaming, preview and predictions for the Shenzhen Open semifinal match on Saturday 5 January: Sabalenka searches for first title of 2019 as she takes on home favourite Wang

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