Aryna Sabalenka claimed the first title of the 2021 season at the Abu Dhabi Open on Wednesday. The fourth seed from Belarus romped over Russian Veronika Kudermetova 6-2, 6-2 in just 66 minutes. Sabalenka’s game was imposing throughout the course of the match as she let winners fly off both wings.
As a result, her opponent, who was playing her first career final, was unable to go toe-to-toe with her for extended durations in the encounter. Sabalenka gained her first break of the match in the sixth game of the opening set.
A second service break in the eighth game helped the 22-year-old take the opening set in 27 minutes. Despite her strong start, Sabalenka was a tad jittery in the second set. In the third game of the set, she lost her serve for the first time in the match.
After breaking Kudermetova in the second game of the second, Sabalenka found herself getting broken back right away. However, the second break of Kudermetova’s serve in the fourth game helped her regain her lost footing.
This composure did not last long and Sabalenka was broken for the second time in the match, while serving for it, in the seventh game after earlier having a match point. Despite this reprieve, Kudermetova’s survival in the match did not last too long as she was broken decisively in the eighth game of the set, which handed Sabalenka the title.
Abu Dhabi Open: Aryna Sabalenka makes her mark
Sabalenka closed the day with 18 winners and 13 unforced errors. In contrast, Kudermetova had just 13 winners, and 25 unforced errors. Sabalenka also converted six of the 12 break points she had on Kudermetova's serve while saving four of six break points herself.
This is Sabalenka’s ninth career title and her third title on the trot since winning the two final tournaments in 2020 – in Ostrava and Linz – to close out that season. Going back to these two events, the Belarusian is now on a 15-match victory streak, a career-best for her.
Thanks to this title haul at the Abu Dhabi Open, Sabalenka will also mark a new career-high in the WTA singles rankings. When the rankings get updated on the following Monday (18th January), Sabalenka will be ranked seventh.
Her previous career-high was ninth. Kudermetova, too, has attained a new career-high in the 36th spot. Had the Russian won the title in Abu Dhabi, she would have been seeded at the Australian Open in February. Photo Credit: WTA Insider Twitter