Aryna Sabalenka consolidated her position as one of the game’s biggest rising stars after she stormed to claim her first career WTA title at the Premier event at the Connecticut Open, easing past the experienced Carla Suarez Navarro within just 73 minutes of play. Sabalenka now enters the US Open with a career-high ranking of 20, while Suarez Navarro managed to break back into the top-25 with her strong display this week.
A strong US Open Series for the talented and powerful youngster saw her reaching the semifinals in Cincinnati before claiming her maiden title on tour. During this excellent stretch of results, Sabalenka claimed four top-10 wins and proved her dark horse credentials for the final Major of the year.
The Belarusian blasted 29 winners to just a mere 17 unforced errors, putting in a world-class performance to defeat the Spaniard which secured a long-awaited top-20 debut. Suarez Navarro did not play too bad either though, just that she was often overpowered and the match was simply on Sabalenka’s racquet. She fired 17 winners and committed 16 unforced errors, breaking serve just once in the match.
Sabalenka storms to take the opening set
Sabalenka, the pre-match favourite to claim the Premier title, came out of the blocks firing as she was firing winners at her own pace to grab the confident opening service hold. Suarez Navarro was definitely feeling the early nerves as she was misfiring more often than usual, and allowing Sabalenka to earn the first break which saw her jumping out towards an early 2-0 lead. Within a blink of an eye, the Belarusian easily consolidated the break for a commanding three-game advantage, with her aggressive game style proving to be too much for her opponent.
Suarez Navarro’s woes continued as everything was going in Sabalenka’s way. The Belarusian could not stop firing winners while the Spaniard had to be on the defence throughout the majority of the match. After 12 minutes of play, the world number 25 found herself having a double-break lead after hitting yet another forehand winner.
Although she faced some troubles on her serve for the first time in the match, Sabalenka remained calm and composed to erase the break point deficit before capitalizing on her opportunities — powering to a formidable 5-0 lead and being just one game away from clinching the opening set. Suarez Navarro finally found her groove after what seemed like an eternity, placing herself onto the scoreboard but a late comeback was not on the cards as Sabalenka ultimately served out the opening frame 6-1 after just 23 minutes of play.
Tight second set goes the way of Sabalenka
This time, it was Suarez Navarro who had the perfect start into the second set as she looked determined to send the match into a deciding set. The Spaniard was putting in a much competitive display, and her one-handed backhand was finally working effectively. She earned a break point in the second game but was wasteful on her chances, with Sabalenka fending it off with a huge backhand down-the-line winner.
Suarez Navarro once again found herself in deep trouble — especially when Sabalenka is slowly gaining back all the momentum. The Belarusian owned a break point opportunity in the following game but Suarez Navarro managed to stay rock solid on her serves and managed to stay toe-to-toe with her opponent in the opening stages of the set.
Another routine service hold seemed to be incoming for the Spaniard but she lost a 30-0 lead and missed two game points which allowed Sabalenka to draw the first blood and make the first breakthrough. Serving to consolidate her lead, signs of nerves appeared in the youngster’s game for the first time in the match, as she double-faulted down break point to hand back the advantage immediately.
Suarez Navarro was looking to secure her service game — and we thought it was certain that she would hold for 5-4 after being up 40-15. However, a smart Hawkeye challenge by Sabalenka managed to overturn a call and that challenge ultimately turned the tides, allowing the Belarusian to storm back and claim the third consecutive break in the marathon game. It was an extremely close shave considering it was a relatively late challenge and the scoreboard had already shown that Suarez Navarro won the game.
Serving for the match, the fearless Sabalenka overcame some late wobbles and was forced to save yet another break point, but was third-time lucky as she hit a powerful forehand which forced an error from Suarez Navarro, grabbing the first-ever WTA title of her career.