On-fire Sabalenka completes dream start to 2021 with Abu Dhabi title

On-fire Sabalenka completes dream start to 2021 with Abu Dhabi title

The Belarusian overpowered surprise finalist Veronika Kudermetova in straight sets to capture her third straight WTA title and extend her winning streak to 15 matches in a row.

Aryna Sabalenka crushed Veronika Kudermetova in the final of Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, 6-2, 6-2, to win her third straight WTA title and extend her career-best winning streak to 15 matches in a row.

The Belarusian won her last nine matches of 2020, capturing back-to-back indoor titles in Ostrava, Czech Republic and Linz, Austria, and she won six more matches en route to the crown in Abu Dhabi.

Ostrava, Linz and Abu Dhabi are the only three WTA events that have been held since Roland Garros.

“I’m really proud of the fact that I was fighting no matter what this week,” Sabalenka said. “Some matches I didn’t feel my serve and some matches I didn’t feel my backhand or forehand, but I just kept fighting and finding my shots, and this is what I’m really proud of. I’m really happy with this title.”

Though the No. 10-ranked Sabalenka was a clear favorite on paper going into the final, Kudermetova was also riding a wave of confidence—she was through to the first WTA final of her career, and she had taken out another Top 10 player along the way, beating No. 5 Elina Svitolina in the quarters.

But after trading holds with the No. 46-ranked Russian for the first four games of the final, Sabalenka went on a tear of six games in a row—losing a total of just six points in those six games—to build a 6-2, 2-0 lead, and she never really looked back from there, closing it out after 65 minutes on court.

She finished the match with 18 winners to just 13 unforced errors.

“In her first two service games I was trying to see what she was doing, but then I just started feeling where she was serving, and I just followed my feelings,” said Sabalenka, who broke the Russian’s last six service games in a row. “Also, I was putting a lot of pressure on her with my service games, and I was returning well, too—I was really happy with my return today, it really helped me win this match.”

It was her ninth career WTA title. She’s now won her last six finals in a row, and nine of her last 10.


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“Aryna’s playing good. She played unbelievable today,” Kudermetova said. “She didn’t give me a lot of chances. She tried to keep every ball on the court, she tried to attack, and when she had her chances she went full power on the court. She also fights until the end—that’s why she’s a top player.”

The Belarusian is projected to rise from No. 10 to a new career-high of No. 7 when the WTA rankings are released next Monday, surpassing her previous career-high of No. 9. She’ll jump past Kiki Bertens, Petra Kvitova and Bianca Andreescu, who are currently at No. 9, No. 8 and No. 7, respectively.

Kudermetova will rise from No. 46 to No. 36, jumping past her current career-high of No. 38.