Third seed Aryna Sabalenka returned to the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix final on Saturday in Stuttgart, but not without digging herself out of trouble in the opening set against doubles partner Paula Badosa.

Sabalenka edged the No. 2 seed, 7-6 (5), 6-4, and gets a shot at ending the 22-match win streak of world No. 1 Iga Swiatek come Sunday.

Badosa led 5-2 initially, but the absence of her first serve in the ninth game allowed Sabalenka to swing away and break back. The Spaniard appeared to regain the momentum when she quickly went up a double mini break in the ensuing tiebreaker, which would evolve into the pinnacle highlight of the contest.

Sabalenka fought back from 3-0 and 4-1 deficits by pulling every trigger possible, before Badosa moved in front 5-4 with a brilliant backhand winner up the line. On the next point, the two pushed each other into all four corners of the court until Sabalenka emerged victorious with a crosscourt forehand on the run. A second-serve ace followed and she would seal the one-hour set when Badosa was late timing her backhand redirection.

“You have to risk it and just go for it. I didn’t want to make it an ace. I just wanted to make it in and somehow I made an ace,” Sabalenka said on-court afterwards.

“It was a tough match. I would say that she’s the toughest opponent. I tried to stay in that set as long as I could, fight for every point. I was lucky I got it.”


Sabalenka scored her first victory in three attempts against Badosa.

Sabalenka scored her first victory in three attempts against Badosa.

At the start of the second set, Badosa was unable to capitalize on Sabalenka’s sloppy opening service game. Serving at 1-0, 15-30, the 24-year-old went from defense to offense to gain control, yet hit her backhand approach right at Sabalenka. Badosa watched a backhand fly by when she attempted to block a volley and two points later, the Belarusian was back on serve thanks to another backhand winner, this time a crosscourt laser.

There would be no further service breaks until the end of the clash. Down 0-30, Badosa double faulted on the final two points.

A year after finishing runner-up to Ashleigh Barty, Sabalenka now has a second shot at claiming the title and walking away with the Porsche of her choice if she can drive away from one last opponent.

“If I know there is no camera, I go really fast,” she joked about her approach behind the wheel.

Sabalenka finished with 33 winners to 26 winners. Badosa, who will rise to a career-high No. 2 in Monday’s updated WTA rankings, struck 16 to 13, respectively.