Aryna Sabalenka reached final of the Stuttgart WTA tournament for the second year running with a straight sets win over Paula Badosa on Saturday.
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Sabalenka came out on top of a hard-fought battle for the first set of the semi-final, then turned up the pressure in the second to seal a 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 victory.
“It was a tough match and she is the toughest opponent,” said Sabalenka.
“I tried to just stay in the first set and get the break back,” she added, referring to the opening set which was eventually settled by a tie breaker.
“I am super happy with the result.”
Sabalenka responded to having her service broken at the start of the second set by returning the compliment.
Badosa then faded as the set progressed, serving a double fault to hand Sabalenka victory on her first match point.
Having lost to Ashleigh Barty, who retired last month, in last year’s final in Stuttgart, Sabalenka will face either Iga Swiatek or Liudmila Samsonova, who meet in the other semi-final.
Badosa has the consolation that she will move up to second in the world rankings on Monday.
Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova beat defending champion Sorana Cirstea of Romania in the semifinal of the WTA250 event in Istanbul.
Third-seeded Kudermetova defeated Cirstea 6-3, 6-3 to set up an all-Russian summit clash with Anastasia Potapova, who had earlier beaten Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 in the first semifinal.
We went into the tiebreak and early on it was all Badosa. She went up 3-0 but Sabalenka continued fighting and eventually, she got to 4-4. From there she outplayed her opponent to take it 7-5. It was a huge confidence booster for Sabalenka and it proved crucial for the rest of the match. Wonky play lost Sabalenka her serve early in the 2nd but she got it back right away.
After that, she settled into a serving clinic not allowing Badosa much. The Spaniard really struggled to get the ball back into the court, and she failed to use either of the three break points she faced. At 4-5, she allowed Sabalenka her first and the Belarussian took it. A good effort from Badosa but lost every crucial rally in the match.