Ukrainian teen Dayana Yastremska scored the first top-10 win of her career at the Wuhan Open on Wednesday over world No 2 Karolina Pliskova, declaring herself one of the young talents making a splash on tour this season.
In a year where 19-year-old Bianca Andreescu has won the US Open, and 15-year-old Cori Gauff has reached the second week at Wimbledon, Yastremska picked up two WTA titles and made the fourth round at SW19.
“They’re young but they’re also very good. There’s a lot of things I could learn from them as well,” Yastremska said of the players following her 6-1, 6-4 third-round victory against Pliskova.
“I’m really happy that now the young generation is coming up. It’s really time for us.”
But Pliskova was reserved in her judgment when asked about 19-year-old Yastremska’s potential, noting that performing at this level consistently can be challenging for many youngsters on the circuit.
“I think she’s still young, I think anything is possible. There were players who had great one year and they just disappeared, so I’m not sure about her,” said the Czech, who has a tour-leading 50 match-wins on tour this year.
“Of course she can be dangerous because she can play well, but she can also have days where she’s missing a lot.”
Pliskova’s exit temporarily takes the pressure off world No 1 Ashleigh Barty, who can hold onto her top ranking for at least one more week now that her nearest rival was unable to reach the semi-finals in Wuhan.
“I know I was close, but I don’t care,” said Pliskova of missing out on the number one spot this week.
Barty booked her ticket to the quarter-finals with a 6-3, 7-5 success over recently-crowned Guangzhou champion Sofia Kenin, and takes on Croatian Petra Martic on Thursday.
Meanwhile, third-seeded Elina Svitolina said she is happy to have put her early-season woes behind her as she secured passage to the quarter-finals with a 6-4, 6-2 rout of Russian qualifier Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Svitolina – a 13-time WTA titlist – is yet to capture a trophy in 2019 but has broken through on the Grand Slam stage, reaching back-to-back semi-finals at Wimbledon and the US Open.
“Before I reached the semi-final of Wimbledon, I was very upset with the season. I didn’t start bad, but I was like, ‘Okay, what’s going on? The only thing I gain was probably the weight’,” she said on Wednesday.
“Semi-final Wimbledon, it gave me just a little push mentally.”
Svitolina’s next test comes in the form of American world number 35 Alison Riske, who maintained her clean record against home favourite Wang Qiang with a 6-2, 6-1 triumph.
Aryna Sabalenka squandered a 6-1, 5-1 lead before recovering to complete a tricky 6-1, 7-6 (11/9) dismissal of sixth-seed Kiki Bertens.
The Belarusian feels confident her “inner tiger” is officially back, as her title defence campaign gathers steam in Wuhan.
“I lost to her four times before. For me it was really important this game to win it,” said Sabalenka, who needed five match points before she finally beat her Dutch opponent.
Two-time Wuhan champion Petra Kvitova closed out play on Wednesday, beating 10th-seeded Sloane Stephens for the first time, 6-3, 6-3, to set up a quarter-final showdown with Yastremska.
Results from the WTA tournament in Wuhan, China on Wednesday (x denotes seeding):
Singles - 3rd rd
Elina Svitolina (UKR x3) bt Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS)6-4, 6-2
Ashleigh Barty (AUS x1) bt Sofia Kenin (USA x15) 6-3, 7-5
Petra Martic (CRO) bt Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) 6-3, 6-1
Elena Rybakina (KAZ) bt Simona Halep (ROU x4) 5-4, ret.
Aryna Sabalenka (BLR x9) bt Kiki Bertens (NED x6) 6-1, 7-6 (11/9)
Alison Riske (USA) bt Wang Qiang (CHN x8) 6-2, 6-1
Dayana Yastremska (UKR) bt Karolina Pliskova (CZE x2) 6-1, 6-4
Petra Kvitova (CZE x5) bt Sloane Stephens (USA x10) 6-3, 6-3