Free Press Journal

Belarusian teenager Sabalenka wins maiden WTA tennis title


Mumbai :Top seed, 19-year-old, Aryna Sabalenka from Belarus lived up to her top seeding by winning her maiden WTA title when she was crowned champion of the L&T Mumbai Open WTA 125K series, after defeating Dalila Jakupovic from Slovenia in straight sets 6-2, 6-3 in four minutes over an hour at the Centre Court of the Cricket Club of India, Churchgate.

Sabalenka had reached her first WTA final at the Tianjin Open, last month where she lost to Maria Sharapova.

The world no. 96 Sabalenka, who was the only remaining seed, started hesitantly with her first serves, but managed to wrest the initiative. She held her first service game and followed it up with a break in the next, without conceding a point, involving three backhand and one forehand winner. A double fault by the 26-year-old Slovenian Jakupovic gave the teenager the break.

Moreover, Sabalenka’s strong game and her first ace of the match ensured she held serve to lead 3-0 in in a matter of eight minutes.

The Belarusian couldn’t capitalise on three break points in the fourth game which enabled Jakupovic, ranked 252, to finally get on the scoreboard. However, the teenager broke Jakupovic’s serve in the eighth game with some strong net play as well as passing and down the line winners, to win the second set 6-2 in 31 minutes.

Dalila Jakupovic, responded well in the opening stages of the second set with a break of her own in the first game, and holding on to her serve in the second game to lead 2-0. However, the Belarusian’s strong service, powerful winners and intelligent net play allowed her to break back to level and then take the lead 4-3.

Sabalenka broke again in the eighth game to serve for the championship at 5-3. Jakupovic gained a break point after lobbing over the Belarusian, but failed to take advantage after strong serves enabled the latter to gain a championship point right on the hour mark. A strong serve yet again from the towering athlete enabled her to win the second set 6-3, and the championship.

“It was not a good match. She played very good tennis of a high level. She tried to beat me, but I was aggressive and it allowed me to take the pressure off me,” said Sabalenka at the post match press conference.

“The win will help me get a get a direct entry into the Australian Open main draw. It will be easier for me to play there. I will now take a week’s break, spend time with friends and family and resume my pre-season training after that. I will play tournament at Shanghai and Hobart before the first Grand Slam of the year,” she further said.

Sabalenka mentioned that playing here in Mumbai, felt like home. “Playing here in India felt like being at home. The weather is more-or-less the same as in Minsk. The people here are very friendly and nice. More importantly I enjoy eating cheese-garlic naan. When I was coming to India from Taipei I was thinking I would get another opportunity to have garlic-naan. I am eating it after two years. It’s spicy but not too much, like some other food back home,” she said.

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