Lyon | Zhang edges Yastremska to win WTA 250 title in France

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Dayana Yastremska’s attempt to claim the Open 6e Sens Métropole de Lyon in France for Ukraine fell short when she was edged out by 8th-seeded Shuai Zhang from China, who recorded her 3rd career WTA singles title after coming from behind to grab the win, 3-6 6-3 6-4, in Sunday’s final.

It’s been a tough week. If Ukrainian people are watching me, I want to say ‘you guys are so strong, you have an amazing spirit, and I tried to fight for Ukraine’. The prize money I earn here I’m going to give to the Ukrainian Foundation to support Ukraine. I’ve been fighting all week, not only for myself, but also for my country. Dayana Yastremska

“An incredible week, very high-quality match in the final,” Zhang said, after her win. “I saw [Yastremska] grow up over the last three or four years, she’s already won many tournaments.

“She plays so well, very powerful, so I was really focused on myself today. I’m really proud of winning.”

33-year old Zhang rebounded after dropping the first set, and fought back from a break down on two occasions in the decider to turn back the Ukrainian wild-card in an hour 46 minutes.

It was a personal triumph for both, with Zhang bagging her first title in 4 years and becoming the first woman from China to win a tour title since Zheng Saisai took San Jose in 2019, while Yastremska has been flying the Ukrainian flag all week after escaping the Russian invasion of her country a short week ago, an incredible achievement from the 21-year-old.

“It’s been a tough week,” admitted Yastremska. “If Ukrainian people are watching me, I want to say ‘you guys are so strong, you have an amazing spirit, and I tried to fight for Ukraine’.

“The prize money I earn here I’m going to give to the Ukrainian Foundation to support Ukraine.”

“I’ve been fighting all week, not only for myself, but also for my country.”

Despite the disappointment of not winning the title, Dayana Yastremska has had a remarkable week in Lyon after fleeing Ukraine a week ago

Zhang, ranked 64, who swept into the final without losing a set in her 4 lead-in matches, was finally pushed to 3 sets by Yastremska, but the Chinese got the job done in the end, improving her record against the Ukrainian to 2-1.

Despite the loss, it was a remarkable performance by Yastremska, who was forced to shelter with her family in an underground garage in her war-torn home country for two nights just a week ago.

“The journey [from Odessa] took four hours to reach the Danube at the Romanian border,’ she said after her first round win in Lyon. “We were afraid of bombs or of meeting Russian tanks.

“There was a long line of cars at the border and we ended up walking.

“That’s where we said goodbye to our parents, because our mother said, at the last moment, she would stay with dad.

“We were shocked, but at the same time we didn’t want our father to be there alone.

“Ivanna [her 15-year old sister] started crying a lot, and I had to keep my emotions in check because I took a big responsibility.”

Currently ranked 140 in the world, Yastremska, a 3-time singles title winner on tour, will rise 37 places to 103 in the WTA Rankings on Monday.

Both played aggressively, taking advantage of the indoor conditions to set up numerous hard-hitting rallies.

It was Yastremska who took charge in the first set, slamming a backhand winner to hold for 3-2, then using fierce forehands to force errors from Zhang in the following game and grab the only break of the opener.

Yastremska had 13 winners to just 3 unforced errors in the first set, and she broke serve to kick off the second set as well, but Zhang suddenly snatched the momentum away, reeling off 4 games in a row to gain a commanding 4-1 lead.

Zhang, who continued to press with powerful ball-striking as Yastremska’s unforced error count rose to 10 in the second, finished the set with a pristine love-hold to level the match.

In the decider, Yastremska fired more aggressive shots to lead Zhang by a break at 2-0 and 4-2, but the Chinese immediately struck back each time.

Zhang then took her first lead of the set by slamming a forehand winner to break for 5-4 and the Chinese refused to be derailed from there, collecting her 4th game in a row to wrap up the victory and claim the Lyon title.

Yastremska struck 6 aces to Zhang’s 2, and won 74.5 percent of her first serve points, but the Chinese punished her second serve deliveries, winning 54 percent of those points.

It was all very even and, at the last, it came down to Zhang edging just 2 more points than Yastremska of the 160 played in the match, 81 to 79.

Laura Siegemund & Vera Zvonareva won the Lyon Open doubles title beating Brits Alicia Barnett & Olivia Nicholls in the final

The doubles final featured two Brits making their WTA Tour debuts this week, Alicia Barnett & Olivia Nicholls, who were out-played by tour veterans Laura Siegemund & Vera Zvonareva.

The German-Russian pair took the Lyon doubles title, 7-5 6-1.

Siegemund & Zvonareva paired up to win the 2020 US Open doubles title in their first event as a team, and collected their second team title this week, in their first event together of the season.

It is the 7th WTA Tour doubles title for 34-year-old Siegemund, and the 11th for 37-year-old Zvonareva.

Barnett & Nicholls have achieved immediate success at tour level with their trip to the final, despite their 71-minute loss to the former US Open champions.

Britain’s Alicia Barnett & Olivia Nicholls made their debut on the WTA Tour this week by reaching the doubles final in Lyon

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