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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, February 5, 2023


Zhu Lin converted eight of nine break points stopping Lesia Tsurenko 6-4, 6-4 in the Thailand Open final for her maiden WTA singles title.

Photo credit: Kelly Defina/Getty

Stress swarmed Zhu Lin in her first final.

Veteran Lesia Tsurenko was staging a late charge, nerves were spiking, tense rallies were escalating into physical tests, sticky conditions were sapping leg strength and a brigade of rogue mosquitoes briefly mugged both finalists late in the second set.

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Through it all, Zhu remain riveted on the ball and the career goal.

In the end, Zhu zapped a backhand drive volley clinching her maiden WTA title with a banging close to top Tsurenko 6-4, 6-4 in the Thailand Open final.

The 29-year-old Chinese converted eight of nine break points, including four breaks in a row, to wrap a one hour, 45-minute triumph on the humid Hua Hin hard courts.

It's a monumental moment for Zhu, who scored her career-best fifth straight win, cracked the Top 50 for the first time rising to a career-high ranking of No. 41 in the live rankings and by the way couldn't celebrate too much as she's set to play the doubles final later today.

All this from a woman who was ranked No. 114 at this time last year. Zhu signaled her impending rise in Melbourne Park where she knocked off sixth-seeded Maria Sakkari in three sets then took two-time champion Victoria Azarenka to three sets before bowing in the Australian Open round of 16. With today's title, Zhu raised her record to 10-3, which is third on the WTA Tour in wins this season behind only AO champion Aryna Sabalenka and Lyon finalist Caroline Garcia.

"I want to thank my team, thank you for all the support and all the hard work this if for you," Zhu said afterward. "I want to thank everyone who come to support. I hope you enjoy this match and I hope you stay for the doubles match."

The 136th-ranked Tsurenko, who toppled 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu in Saturday's semifinals, battled vigorously until the final ball. Tsurenko carried a 4-1 finals record into her first title match since the 2019 Brisbane final, but ultimately Zhu played bolder tennis at crunch time.

"Today was an amazing final, so many people were watching, supporting both of us," Tsurenko said. "Credit to my opponent. Days like this I hope you have more and more just to play amazing as you played today."

Zhu's skill playing down the line helped her edge ahead in a nervy opening set that saw the pair combine for seven breaks in 10 games. Zhu, who won 24 of 39 points played on the Ukrainian's first serve, scored the love break to snatch a one-set lead.

Rapping deep returns sometimes right down the middle, Zhu took a 5-3 second-set lead. Tsurenko put her opponent's nerve to the test when Zhu served for the title in the ninth game.

Tossing up a lob, Tsurenko drew a netted smash for another break point. Following her drive forward, Tsurenko took a step back near the service line to set her feet then spun a forehand into the corner breaking back for 4-5 and ratcheting pressure up on the first-time finalist.

Credit Zhu for continuing to attack her shots, smacking the swing volley and a timely challenge to close. A tremendous corner-to-corner rally saw Zhu fire a forehand drive volley winner. Zhu touched the sideline with a forehand initially called out. She challenged, replay showed the shot was good and the chair umpire awarded the point to the Chinese because Tsurenko's reply was out and she swung before the out call was made.

That challenge gave Zhu championship point and she pounced. Banging a backhand down the line, Zhu closed with one final brilliant backhand burst. Winning her first title was career breakthrough, but Zhu's heavy lifting wasn't done for the day.

Hoisting the beautiful gold Thailand Open trophy, which depicts a dolphin bouncing a tennis ball off its nose and weighs a hefty 31 pounds, proved challenging after a one hour, 45-minute sweaty final, but Zhu was up for every challenge on this day.


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