World No. 10 Aryna Sabalenka put on a ruthless display of power tennis in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, hitting almost three times as many winners as unforced errors to cruise past Maria Sakkari in just 57 minutes, 6-3, 6-2, in the semifinals of the WTA 500 event. It was also her 14th win in a row.
A day earlier, Sakkari was the giant-killer—after falling behind 6-2, 2-2 to Sofia Kenin, she won 10 games in a row to score the biggest win of her career over the No. 4-ranked American, 2-6, 6-2, 6-0.
But there would be no turnaround for the Greek on Tuesday, as Sabalenka dominated from start to finish. She flew out of the blocks, winning 12 of the first 13 points of the match and going up 3-0 after just six minutes—she would eventually close the first set out after 28 minutes on court. The second set started off with three straight holds and Sakkari finding herself up 2-1, but Sabalenka caught fire once again, rattling off five games in a row to sprint past the finish line, even serving it out at love.
The Belarusian’s numbers in the match were phenomenal—she finished with 14 more winners than unforced errors, 22 to 8, and her serve was even more lethal with eight aces to just one double fault. Sakkari, meanwhile, finished with a -9 differential of winners to unforced errors, 12 to 21.
Sabalenka won almost twice as many points in the match, 62 to 33.
“I like to play against her,” said Sabalenka, who’s now beaten Sakkari four times in a row. “I think I’m just putting pressure on her every match we’re playing, and it’s helped me win all those matches.”
Sabalenka’s 14-match winning streak—a career-best—began after a third-round loss to Ons Jabeur at Roland Garros last October. She went 9-0 the rest of 2020, picking up back-to-back indoor titles in Ostrava, Czech Republic and Linz, Austria, and she’s gone 5-0 so far this week in Abu Dhabi.
She’s also on a 10-match winning streak in the Middle East, going 5-0 to win Doha last February.
“I think I’ve put my focus in the right space,” she said. “I’m focusing on the right things, which helps me not think about all of these wins, and so it helps me to keep winning. I need to keep concentrating on my game and my movement on the court, and trying to do everything I can in the moment.
“It’s been working really well for me.”
The Belarusian is into the 13th WTA final of her career in Abu Dhabi. She's 8-4 in her first 12 finals.