Laura Robson loses dramatic Guangzhou final
Laura Robson failed in her bid to win Britain's first WTA Tour title in 24 years as Hsieh Su-Wei clinched a hard-fought 6-3 5-7 6-4 victory in a topsy-turvy match in Guangzhou.
Robson had already ended a two-decade wait for a British woman to appear in the final of a Tour singles tournament, and hit back from a set down to take the second and level up the match.
At 3-0 up in the final set, Robson looked set to emulate the triumph of Sara Gomer in Aptos, California back in 1988, but Chinese Taipei's Hsieh roared back to take it 6-4.
Despite coming into this week on a four-match WTA losing streak, world number 53 Hsieh showed real confidence and maturity in coming through a tough two hour and 48 minute match to win her second title of the year.
The British number one beat three top-50 players on her way to the final and, as a result of her hugely encouraging run to the final, she continued her steady rise up the world rankings.
Robson took an early break to lead 2-1 in what was a very bright start to the match, but she was left hugely frustrated with herself as Hsieh proceeded to reel off four games in succession.
Having assumed control of the set at 4-2, Hsieh managed to fend off her opponent’s advances and close it out with real composure.
Robson broke at the start of the second set to again seize the initiative, but from having established a 2-0 lead, she was pegged back once more.
Hsieh broke Robson’s serve with an onslaught of pressure from the back of the court, then went on to hold and level with her unorthodox game causing her opponent real problems.
In what proved to be another devastating run, Hsieh made it four games on the bounce as she moved into a 4-2 lead with the break, and Robson was suddenly hurtling towards a swift defeat.
Hsieh looked to wrap up victory at 5-3 up in the second set but Robson, remarkably, saved five championship points with some tremendously gutsy play to hold in an epic service game.
Robson was buoyed by her resilient hold and fired a huge forehand winner down the line to put Hsieh under pressure at the start of her crucial service game, but her opponent continued to hold firm.
Hsieh was unable to serve out for the match at 5-4 up as Robson showed real determination in hitting back after an extended deuce, and she proceeded to hold to move in front.
The 18-year-old managed to find two sparkling winners as she broke serve to take the set 7-5, and suddenly all the momentum was with the Brit.
Robson held serve at the start of the third set, before breaking with a flurry of destructive blows from the back of the court and consolidating to make it seven games in succession.
Hsieh was suddenly looking ragged and her movement appeared sluggish and a first British WTA title for 24 years looked on the cards, but she managed to lift her level once more to haul herself back on terms with a stunning resurgence.
It quickly became four games on the trot for Hsieh as she moved in front at 4-3 in the final set with the break, and this time Robson was not able to respond.
Hsieh closed out the win, taking the third set 6-4, and was left to celebrate a second WTA Tour title after her triumph at the Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur in February.
Robson was left understandably disappointed with the result of the final, but her continued rise up the world rankings and performance in Guangzhou will have come as a real encouragement for the 18-year-old.