Aryna Sabalenka has won the first WTA tournament of 2021 after dominating Veronika Kudermetova 6-2 6-2 in the finals of the Abu Dhabi Women’s Tennis Open.
Sabalenka used her power to cruise past the world No.46 in straight sets, to secure her 15th straight win on the WTA Tour and her 9th WTA tour championship.
It seems she just cannot stop winning. After claiming the last two tournaments of 2020 at Ostrava and Linz, she has now etched her name onto the first of 2021.
Impressing with her focus and the dexterity of her tennis, Sabalenka has been dominant all week, using her belting serve and phenomenal forehand to stun her opponents to make it to her 11th WTA tournament finals.
Although the final wasn’t all plain sailing for the Belarusian, who had to fend off a late comeback from her opponent Veronika Kudermetova to secure the win.
Likewise, Kudermetova will claim a career-high ranking of No.33 in the WTA charts, after a brilliant week in the middle east.
Taking down world No.5 Elina Svitolina, and demolishing Marta Kostyuk, Kudermetova’s brilliant gameplay and belting serve has been a delight to watch this week.
And it was an excellent start from the Russian in her first-ever WTA final. She piled the pressure on Sabalenka early recording a first service percentage of 89% in the opening set and put away a couple of difficult crosscourt groundstrokes to trouble Sabalenka in the opening exchanges.
But Sabalenka’s confident service allowed her to hold out on Kudermetova’s advances. Forcing two errors from the Russian, Sabalenka saw an opening and pushed a big winner past Kudermetova to get her first break of the match and go 4-2 up against her opponent.
In typical Sabalenka style, she was robotic in her service. Firing crushing blows down onto her opponent while mixing up her forehand with some controlled drop shots to suffocate Kudermetova who had no response to her belting service.
It took Sabalenka just 26 minutes to take the first set, returning a lightning serve from the Russian to break Kudermetova once again and go 1-0 up in the match.
The Belarusian’s control in the first set was evident, allowing Kudermetova to win only 4 points against Sabalenka’s serve. And she kept her foot on the gas in the opening stages of the second set, to break Kudermetova again to win her sixth straight game of the match.
Kudermetova struggled to land her first serve and allowed Sabalenka to utilise her brilliant ball-striking ability to score some big winners against the Russian.
But a lapse in concentration cost Sabalenka at 2-1, double-faulting to give Kudermetova three break point opportunities.
The Russian dug in and finally cracked Sabalenka’s service forcing Sabalenka to lob a shot over the baseline after a nail-biting rally to claw back momentum in the match.Embed from Getty Images
A furious Sabalenka bounced back, using her aggression and superior return game to win her second breakpoint of the set.
Looking to close out the match, Sabalenka then tried to ramp up the pace, but her opponent wasn’t going to gift her the title that easily.
Holding firm to save five breakpoint chances to stall Sabalenka’s advances, Kudermetova asked questions of the Belarusian.
And although Sabalenka eventually broke through, Kudermetova wasn’t done just yet.
Relentlessly fighting off Sabalenka’s serve in the resulting game, Kudermetova managed to break the Belarusian, save a match point, and pull herself back into the contest.
But it was too little too late for the Russian. With Sabalenka’s resulting advances coming thick and fast, her power was too much for Kudermetova, who finally succumbed, giving Sabalenka the break, the final game, and the 9th WTA championship of her career.Embed from Getty Images
Having now won 15 games on the bounce, the new world No.7 will turn her attention to the Australian Open in three weeks.
Winning three tournaments on the bounce, she’ll be full of momentum to take her career to the next level, where she will be a big challenger to claim the first grand slam of her career.
For information on tickets to this year’s Australian Open, head over to our partner site Tixel.com.au.
Sydney International Tennis WTA Premier by RobPJKeating // https://www.flickr.com/photos/14041643@N00/46190445474 // Licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/Download permissions