Henry Wancke | 9th Mar 2020 | 0
Doha | Fearless Sabalenka sees off Kvitova
© Karim Jaafar/AFP via Getty Images
Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka won her 6th career title on Saturday, when she swept past former two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, 6-3 6-3, in the final of the Qatar Total Open final and then dedicated victory to her father, who died last year.
It was a long journey here and I put everything on tennis. I was actually only playing tennis and focusing on tennis and nothing else. And I think I gave everything for tennis. And I just lost my dad in the pre-season and he was my biggest motivation, and I'm doing it for him.” Aryna Sabalenka
The 21-year-old said the memory of her father Sergey, who died in November, was very much in her mind on Saturday.
“It was a long journey here and I put everything on tennis,” said Sabalenka. “I was actually only playing tennis and focusing on tennis and nothing else.
“And I think I gave everything for tennis. And I just lost my dad in the pre-season and he was my biggest motivation, and I’m doing it for him.”
Sergey fully believed in his daughter’s abilities, often telling her she was destined to be the World No 1.
That belief was evident in the 21-year old’s fearless performance against Kvitova in which she deflected the Czech’s power with near-flawless shot-making.
The win over the 8th-seed, who was Qatar champion in 2018, will see Sabalenka rise to No 11 in the world rankings on Monday.
The 9th seed captured her 3rd title in the past 6 months with a stunning display to outhit Kvitova, delivering a masterclass of power and determination and firing 7 aces and 21 winners in the process.
Kvitova, who was playing in her 37th WTA final and had so impressively taken out the World No 1 Ash Barty on Friday, was disappointed and admitted afterwards that Sabalenka had prevented her from playing her game.
“I wasn’t playing probably what I wanted to, but she didn’t give me anything to play my game,” said the former World No 2. “Aryna played amazing match.
“For sure she didn’t give me anything for free.
“I had a chance once in the second set to break her serve, but I just couldn’t make it. But it was very tight game and probably that’s really helped her to win the second set.”
Sabalenka was impressive with her control over her groundstrokes, scoring half the number of unforced errors, 4 to her opponent’s 8, in the first set and closing it out on her 2nd set point with her 2nd ace.
She retained her advantage with the minimum of fuss in the next, despite Kvitova carving out more opportunities in the early stages and a titanic 8-deuce tussle on the Sabalenka serve in the 4th game in which the Belarusian responded with some of her best serves, and eventually extricated herself with consecutive aces.
Following an off-court medical timeout, Kvitova held a 0-30 lead in the Sabalenka’s next service game, but was unable to keep down her own error count, which rose 19 to only 12 winners, as the Belarusian powered herself to another level, finding a forehand pass to break the 29-year-old to love for 4-3 and then repeatedly pulling off a series of breathtaking winners to race towards the finish line
Kvitova didn’t go quietly, swinging away at a series of drive volleys to stave off triple match point serving at 3-5, but Sabalenka took this mini-tussle as well, sealing her 4th championship point as a backhand pass hit the net cord, forcing Kvitova to volley wide after an hour and 15 minutes.
Raising the golden falcon high, Sabalenka said: “I couldn’t really expect the title for the first time in Doha… I’m really happy, it feels so special for me.
“I was really focused on each point, and played every point like the last point and like I’m actually losing… I respect [Kvitova], I knew she is a big fighter, I know she will bring everything she have on this final.
“I tried to focus on each point because I knew that she will try to come back in the game and she will try to beat me.”
Sabalenka was impregnable on serve through a brilliant first set in which she landed 81% of her first serves, winning the same percentage of the points behind it, and conceding only 6 points in total while never facing a break point.
The Belarusian is now on an 11-match winning streak at Premier 5 level, having also triumphed in Wuhan last September and ending Kvitova’s 10-match winning streak in Doha to level their head-to-head at two apiece.
© Karim Jaafar/AFP via Getty Images