Not enough can be said about the greatness of Carolina Marin. Having fought back from a career-threatening knee injury to compete in last week's Vietnam Open, Marin went on to lose in the very first round of the tournament to 55th seed Supanida Katethong from Thailand.
That meant she was completely written off by pundits ahead of the China Open. However, Marin is a fighter and she proved her mettle by defending her title at the China Open with a victory over Tai Tzu Ying. What made the victory all the more impressive was the fact that Tai was seeded second and had beaten Marin in their last 6 encounters.
Much like the semi-final, Marin got off to a slow start and went into the break trailing 8-11. Tai was at the top of her game and her decisive strokes helped her maintain complete control over the pace of the rallies. Marin's smashes weren't effective and her defense off the backhand wing seemed shaky. The Taiwanese capitalized on these shortcomings to close out the first game 21-14.
It was much of the same in the second game for Tai, as she used her straight smashes to attack Marin's backhand. She went into the break with an 11-8 lead and looked set for victory, however, Marin had other plans.
She stormed back after the break with renewed courage and confidence in her game. Since her smashes weren't working, she resorted to deceptive drops. The sudden change of pace hampered Tai's game and drew unforced errors.
With an improved defense and clever placement, the Spaniard surged to an 18-15 lead and produced a couple of perfect cross-court drop shots to eventually seal the game 21-17.
The third game was a more cagey affair, with both players trying to outmaneuver each other. Marin went into the mid-game interval with a one-point lead and never looked back. After the break, she gave Tai little chance to mount a comeback, racing away to a 19-13 lead. Although she stuttered a little near the finish line, the Spaniard eventually closed out the match 14-21, 21-17, 21-18.
Marin dropped to her knees in disbelief. Less than a year ago, a serious knee injury had threatened to end her career but she had returned in style to cement her status as one of the best women's singles players of all time.