VIDEO: On-a-roll Sabalenka sets up final AD showdown vs Kudermetova - GulfToday

VIDEO: On-a-roll Sabalenka sets up final AD showdown vs Kudermetova

Veronika Kudermetova

Veronika Kudermetova in action during her semi-final match in Abu Dhabi.

Aryna Sabalenka notched her 14th consecutive match-wins after ousting Maria Sakkari to enter the 2021 season’s first WTA singles final at the Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Tennis Open.

Reaching her third final in as many tournaments, world number 10 Sabalenka says she’ll do everything she can to keep her winning streak alive.

Sabalenka needed just 61 minutes to wrap up her 6-3, 6-2 success over the ninth-seeded Maria Sakkari and will take on Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova in the title decider in the UAE capital on Wednesday.

Controlling the court by winning 83 per cent of her first-service points, the fourth-seeded Sabalenka slammed 22 winners in the match, including eight aces, tempered by just eight unforced errors in a commanding performance.

The 22-year-old from Belarus, who ended her 2020 season by picking up back-to-back titles in Ostrava and Linz, completed an Arabian Gulf hat-trick against Sakkari, having also defeated the Greek in Dubai and Doha 11 months ago.

The longest winning streak in WTA history was Martina Navratilova’s 74-match run in 1984.

“It’s an unbelievable number. Of course I’d like to go this far and I’ll do everything I can to keep winning, so we’ll see,” said Sabalenka of Navratilova’s record.

“I think I’m putting my focus on the right space, I’m just focusing on the right things and this helps me to, first of all, not think about all these wins and secondly to keep winning.

“I think I need to keep focusing on my game, on my movement on the court and try to do everything I can in the moment and I think that works really well with me.”

Sabalenka swept the opening three games and was untroubled until Sakkari stopped her from serving out the first set at 5-1. The Greek narrowed the gap but Sabalenka’s firepower delivered in game nine as she secured a one-set lead in just under 30 minutes.

Sakkari enjoyed a better start to the second set but Sabalenka would not relent, and the Belarusian soon earned a double-break advantage en route to victory.

“She played lights-out tennis, she gave me zero chances,” said the 22nd-ranked Sakkari.

Sabalenka will be targeting a ninth career title when she faces Kudermetova in Wednesday’s final.

KUDERMETOVA CONQUERS KOSTYUK: Meanwhile, contesting the biggest semi-final of her career, Kudermetova survived a 60-minute first-set battle on her way to a 7-6 (10/8), 6-4 win over Ukrainian teenager Marta Kostyuk.

In a closely-contested match, very little separated the pair, with Kudermetova’s five service breaks to Kostyuk’s four making the difference in the match. Kostyuk had 22 winners to Kudermetova’s 21, but the World No.99 from Ukraine, who was in her first WTA semifinal, had three more unforced errors than the Russian.

World No.46 Kudermetova had gone 0-4 in her previous WTA singles semifinals, but the Russian at last broke through to her first championship match appearance via her one-hour and 40-minute victory over the Ukrainian teenager.

“I think it was a really tough match today,” Kudermetova said, during her post-match press conference. “I think we were a little bit nervous. It was really tough, but I tried to be focused until the end.”

“I have a little bit more experience than Marta, she is really young, she’s 18. Today I think it was the key because I have a little bit more experience than her,” said the 23-year-old Kudermetova, who idolises Khabib Nurmagomedov and Maria Sharapova.

Kudermetova is through to her maiden WTA final and takes a 5-3 win-loss record against top-10 opposition into her clash with Sabalenka.

“From my side, I don’t have expectations from tomorrow because Aryna is a top-10 player, she plays unbelievably, she’s playing really well here,” Kudermetova said, looking ahead to the final.

“I think she has a bit more pressure than me because she’s supposed to win tomorrow, she already won two tournaments in a row. I think tomorrow I’ll play freely; I’ll try to play relaxed and try to enjoy my final.”

The doubles final is also set for Wednesday, with No.5 seeds Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara facing No.8 seeds Hayley Carter and Luisa Stefani for the title.

Aoyama and Shibahara, both of Japan, defeated Sofia Kenin of the United States and Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia, 6-4, 6-3. Carter of the US and Stefani of Brazil outlasted reigning US Open champions Laura Siegemund of Germany and Vera Zvonareva of Russia, 7-5, 1-6, [10-8].

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