At the Libéma Open in ’s-Hertogenbosch, top seed Aryna Sabalenka reached her appointed place in the final beating American Shelby Rogers, while 7th-seeded Ekaterina Alexandrova stormed past her Russian compatriot and 6th seed Veronika Kudermetova for the chance to face her on Sunday.
It always feels great to be in a final, especially here in the first tournament on grass. I didn't expect to be in the final in the first few matches for sure, because I couldn't feel the surface and everything was flying so far away from the court, but I'm glad I could find my game here. Ekaterina Alexandrova
Sabalenka, who is Belarusian and, like Alexandrova and Kudermetova, is playing as a ‘neutral’, had to save a set point before racing away to a 7-6(6) 6-0 victory over Rogers in an hour and 35 minutes, while Alexandrova dominated Kudermetova, 6-3 6-1, romping home in 1 hour 16 minutes.
Contesting her 17th Hologic WTA Tour final, and her second of the year following Stuttgart in April, Sabalenka is playing her second on grass following Eastbourne in 2018.
Alexandrova, who defeated Kudermetova for the first time in 3 attempts, will play her 4th tour-level title match, her first since Moscow 2021 and the first on grass.
Rogers, who was bidding for her 3rd career final and first since Rio de Janeiro 2016, pushed Sabalenka all the way in the opening act.
The No 42-ranked American played a tactically astute set, deploying slice and net approaches to excellent effect, opting for placement over power, and keeping her unforced error count down to 5 while finding 12 winners.
She came from 4-2 down to serve for the set at 6-5 but, at 30-30, consecutive rare mistakes allowed Sabalenka to force the tiebreak.
The World No.6 found her best tennis in the breaker just when she needed it, saving a set point by conjuring a slice winner off an awkward net cord, then hammering a forehand to convert her own first set point.
From there, Sabalenka rolled, breaking Rogers 3 times in the second set, with the 24-year-old finishing with 22 winners to 16 unforced errors for the match.
Rogers, though, managed to come up with the shot of the match, an absurd reflexed drop-shot winner in the 3rd game of the second set.
“Was a great match out there, she pushed me a lot and she played so well in the first set especially,” said Sabalenka afterwards.
Earlier, Alexandrova, ranked 30 in the world, turned in one of the cleanest performances of her career to dispatch Kudermetova, the 27-year-old dropping just 5 points behind her first delivery, and saving 3 of the 4 break points she faced.
Alexandrova backed her formidable serve up with a series of spectacularly angled forehands, and was coolly efficient in the majority of important moments, converting 5 of the 6 break points she brought up on Kudermetova’s serve.
Kudermetova was coming off the first Grand Slam quarter-final of her career at Roland Garros, and bidding to reach her fourth final of 2022, but she racked up 20 unforced errors to only 6 winners, while Alexandrova finished with 21 winners and 14 unforced errors.
“It always feels great to be in a final, especially here in the first tournament on grass,” said Alexandrova. “I didn’t expect to be in the final in the first few matches for sure, because I couldn’t feel the surface and everything was flying so far away from the court, but I’m glad I could find my game here.”
Sabalenka and Alexandrova have split 4 previous meetings with 2 wins apiece, with the 7th seed winning their most recent encounter, 6-3 6-4, in the 2021 Moscow quarter-finals, but Sunday’s final will be their first encounter on grass.