Johanna Konta’s hopes of reaching the WTA Finals for the first time in her career suffered a major blow in the early hours of Sunday morning, as Caroline Garcia beat the new world number one Simona Halep 6-4, 7-6 (3) in the final of the China Open.
Konta and Garcia are both chasing the final qualification place for the end-of-season tournament, which brings together the top eight players in the world rankings and is currently staged in Singapore.
Halep, Garbine Muguruza, Karolina Pliskova, Elina Svitolina, Caroline Wozniacki, Venus Williams and Jelena Ostapenko have all qualified for the event – leaving Konta and Garcia to scrap it out for the final place.
Defeat for Garcia in the quarter-finals of the China Open would have taken her out of the running and seen Konta qualify for the very first time, but instead 23-year-old enjoyed a winning run, winning in Beijing just a few days after she also won the Wuhan Open.
Garcia, who lost to Halep the two previous times they played, will make her top-10 debut when the new rankings come out on Monday, meaning that Konta now has to reach the final of the forthcoming Kremlin Cup to reach the WTA Finals.
For Halep, the loss was particularly disappointing as she was unable to back up her guaranteed debut in the number one ranking on Monday. She secured the top spot on Saturday with her semifinal victory over French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.
But things did not go her way in Beijing in an exceptionally close final, during which Garcia and Halep each finished with 76 points won. However it was Garcia who took control in the opening set, taking advantage of a clutch of unforced errors from Halep to seize the initiative in the final.
Things did not get better for Halep, who required treatment on a leg injury early in the second set. Then, in a pivotal seventh game of the second set, she wasted no fewer than nine break points before Garcia eventually held serve.
Garcia went on to take the tie-break before dropping to her knees in celebration of a first career win over her Romanian opponent.
“Incroyable is the perfect word to describe these past two weeks,” Garcia commented after her second successive tournament victory. “When I arrived in China I really didn’t expect I would be winning two trophies to take back to France with me.
“Two tournaments in a row is difficult to believe for now. It’s been a pleasure for me to play in Wuhan and Beijing. It’s been a pleasure to be here, it can be difficult at the end of the season when everybody is tired but it’s been amazing.”