When youth goes head-to-head with experience, it is definitely going to be a tough battle. The 2018 US Open second round match between rising star, world number 20 Aryna Sabalenka and veteran, former world number two Vera Zvonareva was a perfect example of youth versus experience. The youthfulness and power of the Belarusian ultimately got the better of the Russian’s world-class counterpunching skills in straight sets, but Sabalenka still had to save set points in the second set to ultimately triumph 6-3, 7-6 after a long hour and 41-minutes of play.
Sabalenka, playing her usual world-class aggressive tennis, was firing on all cylinders amid several instances where she experienced a lapse in focus and blasted an incredible 38 winners despite coming with a heavy cost of 36 unforced errors. Zvonareva, being so consistent and solid, made some costly errors at the crucial moments which ultimately led to her defeat.
The 20-year-old, who just won her maiden WTA title at the Connecticut Open, a Premier event, will now face fifth seed Petra Kvitova in the third round. Sabalenka will be looking to reach the second week of a Major for the first time in her career but the Czech will be an extremely tough opponent to defeat.
Sabalenka grabs sole break to take the first set
A relatively even start saw both players clinching their opening service holds with Sabalenka strolling to win points with ease, while Zvonareva had to work a little harder as she looks to grind down the Belarusian with her consistent hitting. Sabalenka earned her first break points in the fourth game but her efforts were in vain as she committed several consecutive unforced errors and Zvonareva threw in her first ace of the match to hold serve in the tricky game.
The early nerves were gone for both players but it was Sabalenka who found her groove and stormed towards a 5-2 lead within a blink of an eye, claiming three consecutive games to be just a game away from taking the set. Nerves were nothing for the fearless youngster as she eventually served out the set 6-3, not facing a single break point throughout the set.
Sabalenka edges the tight second set for the win
Many though Zvonareva would completely lose the plot after losing the first set — and she was just one step closer to the exit door after being broken on a double-fault in the opening game of the second set. However, nobody would have expected for Sabalenka to lose the rhythm in her game which resulted in a series of unforced errors, allowing Zvonareva to get back in the running after a huge scare.
The remainder of the set went on serve, although it was the experienced Russian who was in another dangerous situation after saving three break points in the seventh game. Sabalenka, despite playing catch-up on the scoreboard, managed to stay in touch with her opponent and send the set into a tiebreak. Two huge forehand winners helped the Belarusian to save two set points in some spectacular fashion, and it was Sabalenka’s 38th winner of the day which sealed her the tight win over the former US Open finalist.