"It feels so amazing (to win the title) and I couldn't really expect the title for the first time in Doha...it feels so special to me" the Belarusian smiled as she lifted up her trophy in March. She had just defeated Petra Kvitova in straight sets capturing her maiden title at the Qatar Total Open.
Sabalenka didn't intend to even play Doha and decided why not since she'd never gone there before. It was soon after that the world health crisis hit closing down all tournaments for nearly seven months. The Belarusian had trained and wondered if she'd be ready whenever the next tournament would open as the coronavirus spread throughout the world.
Would there be a grand slam this year, all the players questioned? Organizers decided to have the Cincinnati Masters, then the Open in New York's National Tennis Center in Flushing. Can I be physically and mentally prepared for the two tough events back to back? The players all wondered.
The New York events showed she was a bit rusty having only made it to the Round of 16 defeated by Jessica Pegula at the Cincinnati Masters. The highly anticipated match up of the two Belarusians: Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka came at the second round of the US Open.
But it was Sabalenka to fall in straight sets with Azarenka having good strategies. "I knew how dangerous she is and I feel I'm a better player this year. So I changed a couple of things..." Azarenka commented. But Sabalenka was out of her element and rhythm becoming nervous to feel she couldn't get her groove back after non-competition in months.
Bowing at Strasbourg in a tough semifinal with Elina Svitolina, she hoped her doubles participation would come together. She and her partner Elise Mertens lost in the opening round at Roland Garros and things continued to look unforcused until the Ostrava Open in the Czech Republic.
It was her match up again with Victoria Azarenka that proved Sabalenka hadn't lost her magic touch. She won the title in straight sets 6-2, 6-2 after having a strong dust up with the 16-year-old Cori Gauff and then the fierce Jennifer Brady.
Despite the win it was clear Azarenka wasn't feeling well after a few medical timeouts but Sabalenka was gracious saying "I hope you'll get better soon." It was her 7th career title and she was relishing in her success after struggling with the factors of the Pandemic.
Sabalenka didn't stop there and scored a doubles victory title with partner Elise Mertens. "..I'm just super happy with the results, both singles and doubles," the younger Belarusian said giving a broad grin She'd gave away a hint of her winning secrets saying "I have to learn how to stay focused...I have to handle my emotions...and stay really strong emotionally from the beginning of the match."
The strain and difficult season was coming to an end as Aryna traveled to Austria to be at the Linz Open. She'd skip doubles this time, concentrating on singles. But her doubles partner had other ideas and popped up in the entry of singles too.
Sabalenka nearly didn't break a set the entire tournament as she landed in the final with her tennis mate, Elise Mertens who knows Sabalenka's strengths as well as weaknesses in strategies and techniques.
The Belarusian had her game on point to defeat Mertens 7-5 6-2
It was Sabalenka and Simona Halep who were the only WTA players to capture 3 titles in this abbreviated season.
Working hard with successful results, Sabalenka had said to the WTA media that "I don't want to say anything, and just cross my fingers so more wins come to me...This is the perfect end to my season, so I can be happy and relaxed..."
She had sizzled out her opponents in a short time and hopes that she can play next season without the Pandemic strain and stress having more wins and maybe titles come her way.