Rising star Aryna Sabalenka on Friday moved another step closer to her first title after easing past fifth-seeded Julia Goerges 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) in the semi-finals of the Connecticut Open.
The 20-year-old Belarussian has rocketed up the WTA Tour rankings this year, moving from being just inside the top 75 in the world at the end of last year to a career-high 25 this week.
“I played a lot of three-sets this year,” said Sabalenka, who has reached her third final of this year. “I’m more fresh, ready for the final.”
Photo: Hearst Connecticut Media via AP
Sabalenka has now beaten Goerges both times they have played. She won 73 percent of her first-serve points and broke Goerges three times in Friday’s one hour, 45 minute match.
“She’s a great player,” Sabalenka said.
“It’s really tough to play against her, because she’s a big server. Sometimes it’s impossible to take her serve. I mean no chance,” she said.
“This is just about the mental game. You have to be focused 100 percent on every point,” she added.
Sabalenka booked her spot in yesterday’s final, in which she was to face Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro, who spent just 34 minutes on the court after Monica Puig of Puerto Rico quit with an injury.
The two were tied 4-4 in the first set when Puig packed it in.
Sabalenka was to be in her fourth career final, but first-ever meeting against 29-year-old veteran Suarez Navarro in the final tune-up event before the US Open next week.
“It’s not the first time, so I know what I have to do tomorrow,” Sabalenka said.
Sabalenka had to come from behind to win the second set against Goerges. She had her serve broken in the first game, but got the break back to level at 4-4.
The pair went to a tiebreak and Sabalenka clinched it in style by winning seven consecutive points after losing the first three points.
“I tried a lot of different things today,” Goerges said. “I can be very pleased with that. I did the best that I could.”
“I was fighting big-time, but there’s only one winner,” she added.
In the other semi-final, Suarez Navarro had just rallied from a break down to get to 4-3 when Puig took a long medical timeout.
Puig returned, but was visibly hampered, losing the next game to get to 4-4. That is when she made the decision to call it a day, leaving the court in tears.
Puig blamed her loss on an abdominal strain.
Suarez Navarro has benefited from a biblical-like chain of events to get into her first WTA final of this year.
After a hard-fought first-round win over Barbora Strycova, she got a walkover from British No. 1 Johanna Konta in the second round.
Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova then retired in their quarter-final, and finally reigning Olympic champion Puig pulled out halfway through the first set of the semis.
In the women’s doubles, Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Germany’s Laura Siegemund were yesterday to face Czech first seeds Andrea Sestini Hlavackova and Strycova in the final.
Hsieh and Siegemund advanced to the final after Czech twins Karolina and Kristyna Pliskova withdrew before their semi-final.
In the other doubles semi-final, Hlavackova and Strycova battled past the US’ Abigail Spears and Poland’s Alicja Rosolska 3-6, 6-3, 12-10.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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