No.4 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus extended her career-best match-winning streak to 14 straight on Tuesday, charging past No.9 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece, 6-3, 6-2, to reach the final of the Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Tennis Open.
Sabalenka had claimed the last three of her four previous encounters with Sakkari, which included wins in the Middle East last season in Dubai and Doha. With her fourth straight victory over the Greek in Abu Dhabi, the Belarusian zipped into her 13th career WTA singles final, needing just 57 minutes to grasp the win.
World No.10 Sabalenka slammed 22 winners in the match, including eight aces, tempered by just eight unforced errors in a commanding performance. The Belarusian controlled the court by winning 83 percent of her first-service points, continuing her run of success in the Middle East which extends back to a title-winning run in Doha last season, her previous event in the region.
Sabalenka will now await the winner of the second semifinal to determine her final opponent, but she knows she will be facing a first-time WTA singles finalist in either Veronika Kudermetova of Russia or Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine.
Sabalenka got off to a thunderous start, dominating the early stages of the first set with her serve and forehand. The Belarusian powered to a quick break for 2-0 and was impenetrable during her first three service games, racing to 4-1 without dropping a point on serve.
After cracking a forehand return winner to break Sakkari at love for 5-1, Sabalenka was cruising to the one-set lead. However, at 15-0 in that game, Sakkari fired a return that landed square on the baseline, ending Sabalenka’s 13-point winning streak on her serve. The Greek grabbed some momentum from that point, forcing errors with her sturdy shots to earn a break for 5-2.
Sabalenka did regroup, and the Belarusian served out the set at 5-3 with more powerful groundstrokes, converting her second set point by forcing an error with a stirring crosscourt backhand. That shot ended a robust opening frame by the No.4 seed, who blasted nine winners and converted both of the break points she held.
At 2-2 in the second set, Sakkari surged back from 0-40 down to deuce with some clutch serving, but Sabalenka would not be denied, cracking forehand winners to keep herself ahead in the game. The No.4 seed eventually converted her fifth break point of the game with a forehand winner down the line, collecting a pivotal service break for 3-2.
Sabalenka eased towards the win from there, knocking off two straight service winners to hold for 4-2 before going up a double-break at 5-2, via some untimely double faults by Sakkari. Serving for the match, Sabalenka did not miss a beat, firing aces to clinch the last two points and romp into the final.