WTA Mumbai Open: Sizzing Sabalenka pips Jakupovic to claim title

The big-serving Sabalenka with explosive strokes on both the flanks, backed by swift movements on court, did give a hint that she could jump in the rankings in the future.

The big-serving Sabalenka with explosive strokes on both the flanks, backed by swift movements on court, did give a hint that she could jump in the rankings in the future.   -  KAMESH SRINIVASAN

 

It was the ideal stage for top seed Aryna Sabalenka, and the powerful Belarussian grabbed the chance to win her maiden title at this level, with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over unseeded Dalila Jakupovic of Slovenia in the final of the L&T $125,000 WTA Mumbai Open at the Cricket Club of India here on Sunday.

A tournament of such magnitude was being held after five years in the country. Elina Svitolina had won the title in 2012 in Pune and has gone on to become No.6 in the world.

WTA Mumbai Open: Sabalenka, Sharipova call the shots

The big-serving Sabalenka with explosive strokes on both the flanks, backed by swift movements on court, did give a hint that she could jump in the rankings in the future.

The title was work 160 WTA points and $20,000. The runner-up collected 95 WTA points and $11,000.

Sabalenka thanked her coach and conceded that, “it is not easy to coach me. I had a great week’’.

Ranked a career-best 76 in October, Sabalenka would definitely jump to a better rank. Her previous singles titles were two in $50,000 events, one in $25,000 in Pune, and two at the $10,000 level in Turkey. Of course, she had won the doubles title with Veronica Kudermetova in the $125,000 event last week in Chinese Taipei, in getting the taste of the trophy on the big stage.

WTA Mumbai Open: Sabalenka, Ankita stand out

The 19-year-old Sabalenka threatened to run away with the trophy as she ran up a 3-0 lead in eight minutes, on a pleasant evening. However, the 26-year-old Jakupovic, who was ranked a career best 129 in May, before slipping to 252, was too much of a fighter to let that happen.

Quite crafty, Jakupovic came up with an under-arm ace on the first point in the fourth game, which not only caught Sabalenka by surprise but also brought a smile on her face.

Easing the tension and running hard, Jakupovic managed to put the points together to win some games, while Sabalenka smashed winners whenever she could pounce on the ball.

Saving three breakpoints in the seventh game, Sabalenka won the first set in 31 minutes.

Into the second set, Jakupovic got off the blocks better, breaking Sabalenka at love in the first game and holding serve for a 2-0 lead.

But the revival was short lived as Sabalenka broke serve in the fourth and eighth games, and saved a breakpoint in the ninth to serve out the match.

Sabalenka won four of eight breakpoints and saved four of five breakpoints. She won 64 points to 44 by her opponent. She fired three aces to two by her opponent.

There was a certain dynamism in her approach which did not let her opponent any easy moment in the whole match that lasted just over an

hour.

Except for being teased till the end in a third set tie-break by Jia-Jing Lu of China in the pre-quarterfinals, Sabalenka was not tested in the tournament.

The results (finals):

Singles: Aryna Sabalenka (Blr) bt Dalila Jakupovic (Slo) 6-2, 6-3.