Jakupovic makes comeback to book Mumbai Open final berth

Dalila Jakupovic and Aryna Sabalenka will face each other in the final of the WTA Mumbai Open on Sunday.


Jakupovic made a comeback from a set down to book her place in the final of the Mumbai Open.   -  ARUNANGSU ROY CHOWDHURY

Dalila Jakupovic of Slovenia bounced back from a tricky start to beat Sabina Sharipova of Uzbekistan 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the semifinals of the L&T $125,000 WTA Mumbai Open tennis tournament at the Cricket Club of India (CCI) here on Saturday.

Watched by an appreciative gathering in the cooler climes of the evening under the floodlights, with the sea breeze giving constant company, at times to the discomfort of the players, Dalila emphasised
her grit to find her way to the final.

Calling her father and coach for consultation when things were not going her way, the 28-year-old Dalila wrestled from the baseline, and ran down every angular shot that Sabina brought off with such

In the final reckoning, it was a matter of converting the chances, and Dalila, who was ranked a career-best 129 in May this year, converted five of six breakpoints that she forced. Sabina, on the other hand,
converted three of six breakpoints.

Even though the scoreline suggest a sound victory for Dalila, after a hesitant start, she won a mere five points more than her opponent, at 78 to 73. But, she made sure that she won the points that mattered.

Beating the 23-year-old Sharipova was not a new experience for Jakupovic, who had beaten her in the second round of the qualifying last week in Chinese Taipei.

Dalila had won 6-3, 6-1 then, and was thus very frustrated when she lost the first set, with Sabina hammering the shots all over the court.

Overall, it was indeed a tremendous resurgence in fortunes for Dalila who had lost the first round on carpet in Taipei, to make the final the subsequent week here. Of course, she had made the doubles final
with Irina Khromacheva of Russia in a similar tournament in Hua Hin, Thailand, earlier this month.

Dalila must obviously be thrilled to make both the singles and doubles final here.

Victoria Rodriguez of Mexico and Bibiane Schoofs of Netherlands fought past Beatrice Gumulya and Ana Veselinovic to earn the right to challenge Dalila and Irina in the doubles final.

In singles, Dalila will await the winner of the match between top seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus and the French girl Amandine Hesse.

In the second semifinals, top seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus packed a lot in her game in outsmarting the petite Amandine Hesse in double quick time. To her great credit, the 24-year-old Amandine, ranked a career-best 154 last year, fought bravely, serving five aces and hitting her patent strokes into the corners for winners.

But, Sabalenka, who fired nine aces, and numerous winners, was ruthless, like a boxer from a higher weight category.

It will be a qualitative jump for the 19-year-old Sabalenka if she lives up to her big game and wins her maiden title at this level. Her best has been winning two $50,000 singles titles last year in China and Japan. More than the doubles title won last week in Chinese Taipei in the $125K series, Sabalenka would draw inspiration from the fact that she had beaten Sloane Stephens of the US in the Fed Cup this

It has been an unforgettable fairy tale of the year that the 24-year-old Sloane Stephens defied all odds to clinch the US Open women’s title.

She may be ranked 96, a bit away from her career-best rank of 76 last month, but Sabalenka, with her big serves and explosive strokes, could be launching her career from here. That is, if Dalila Jakupovic, who has won only titles at the $25,000 level in singles so far, fits her scheme of things.

The results (semifinals):

Singles: Dalila Jakupovic (slo) bt Sabina Sharipova (Uzb) 3-6, 6-3, 6-3; Aryna Sabalenka (Blr) bt Amandine Hesse (Fra) 6-2, 6-3.

Doubles: Victoria Rodriguez (Mex) & Bibiane Schoofs (Ned) bt Beatrice Gumulya (Ina) & Ana Veselinovic (Mne) 7-6(2), 6-4.

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