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.”