WTA Linz: Aryna Sabalenka wins Tour-leading third title of the season



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WTA Linz: Aryna Sabalenka wins Tour-leading third title of the season

The 2019 US Open doubles champions Aryna Sabalenka and Elise Mertens were the rivals in the last WTA event of the season in Linz, fighting for the remaining WTA singles crown. The top seed Sabalenka defeated her friend 7-5, 6-2 in an hour and 42 minutes, securing the Tour-leading third crown of the season and finishing the year inside the top-10 for the first time.

It was the third straight win for Aryna over Elise, earning it after saving six out of eight break chances and five breaks of serve on her tally. The Belgian served for the opening set at 5-4 and had more opportunities on the return in game 11, only to suffer a break at 5-6 to hand the opener to Sabalenka after 70 minutes.

Carried by this momentum, Aryna had the upper hand in set number two, securing two breaks for the year's best finish. They traded breaks in games two and three, with three break points saved by Mertens in games six and eight to remain in touch.

The Belgian broke in the ninth game following a loose forehand from the Belarusian, who pulled it back with a backhand return winner a few minutes later to prolong the set. The 11th game saw no less than seven deuces and three break points for Elise, with Aryna saving them all to remain on the positive side and avoid another setback.

Aryna Sabalenka is the only player with three WTA titles in 2020.

That gave her a boost ahead of the last returning game that she won at 15 to take the set 7-5. Sabalenka took 12 of the first 15 points in set number two, earning a break in game two and forging a 4-1 advantage after saving two break points in game five.

Returning at 5-2, Aryna grabbed another break with a backhand down the line winner, sealing the deal and standing as the last WTA champion in this reduced and crippled season. "This is something extraordinary. I don't want to say anything; just cross my fingers that more wins would come.

This is the perfect end to my season, and I can be happy and relaxed for my holidays and pre-season. I'll keep working to make sure I can maintain this level next season. The first set was tricky; there were many ups and downs, but she was playing well.

I led with a break, but she kept fighting for every point. There was always pressure, and we were putting it on each other, making it hard to strike a balance. It was a challenging set, and I'm happy to handle it because that helped me be more open and relaxed in the second," Aryna Sabalenka said.