"It's been a long, hard work..." , Aryna Sabalenka explained to Leif Shiras and Jon Wertheim at the Tennis Channel desk at Indian Wells. She was into the third round to play Germany's Angelique Kerber and was feeling quite relaxed and happy.
The two commentators teased her on her comments and styles of expression on winning matches, but Sabalenka was lighthearted and in a great mood. She discussed her expression-filled coach Dmitry Tursunov, a former ATP player who has helped her game tremendously and she's said: "He explains me a lot about tactics and things..."
But it's not his demonstrations and talking of strategies to Sabalenka that mattered as much as she's able to execute the moves necessary to win. She had also signed up for doubles with Belgium's Elise Mertens who partnered with her this past January at the Australian Open.
Both are really singles specialists, but Mertens resurfaced last year as being quite proficient at doubles, capturing two titles and three runners up status including one where she played opposite Sabalenka. This tournament pairing was significant because both lost their singles matches early with Mertens bowing in the second round to Qiang Wang and Sabalenka in the third to Kerber.
It was refreshing for both to stay in Indian Wells and continue their winning streak. The opponents of the two were the Czech team of Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, the pair who defeated Sabalenka and Mertens in the third round of the Australian Open.
It might have been a bit of a friendly grudge match when they met here in the final. Both teams had built up the speed and credential to defeat one another but it was Sabalenka and Mertens who put together excellent combos of strokes and blasts to make things all work in their favour.
The first set they didn't allow their opponents to crawl ahead not even one game. It was by pure blasting and excellent communication that they won the opening set 6-3 in nearly a half hour's time. The second set was a slightly different story.
Krejcikova and Siniakova lead 2-1 and was prone to think they were at a good advantage. But things happen or rather Sabalenka and Mertens happened and easily focused to tie thing up at 2-all. There were a few great drop shots by Siniakova, but also some unforced errors that gave Sabalenka and Mertens the confidence that they could win this thing.
Mertens served out the set with an aggressive down the court smash from Sabalenka to seal their first title together at Indian Wells 6-3, 6-2. "This is a result we barely could have dreamed of...achieving it is truly something else," Merten said.
The feeling for the BNP Paribas at Indian Wells was altogether happy and satisfying as Mertens gave an indication of perhaps continuing her partnership with Sabalenka saying "This is a great event that I've always loved, and hopefully we can come back for many years to come." The winning team threw towels to the crowd and gave big grins to the applauding fans on their victory.