Sabalenka secures ‘special’ Doha title

andrew hendrie:

Aryna Sabalenka scored a ‘special’ win over Petra Kvitova to capture the fifth WTA title of her career at the Qatar Total Open in Doha on Saturday.

Ninth-seeded Sabalenka registered a convincing 6-3 6-3 victory over 2018 champion Kvitova in just 74 minutes to win her second Premier-5 title on the bounce in Doha.

The 21-year-old fired 21 winners to just 15 unforced errors in what was arguably her best performance of the season to date. After taking home the Wuhan title in September, Sabalenka has now won 11 straight matches at Premier-5 level.

“I couldn’t really expect the title for the first time in Doha… I’m really happy, it feels so special for me,” she said. “I was really focused on each point, and played every point like the last point and like I’m actually losing.

“I respect [Kvitova], I knew she is a big fighter, I know she will bring everything she have on this final. I tried to focus on each point because I knew that she will try to come back in the game and she will try to beat me.”

Aryna Sabalenka (PA Images)

Sabalenka also spoke again on the tragic passing of her father Sergey in the off-season at just 43.

The Belarusian said in Adelaide at the start of the year that her father wanted her to become World No. 1 and Sabalenka re-iterated that was a huge driving force in her tennis to start 2020.

“It was a long journey here and I put everything on tennis,” said Sabalenka. “I was actually only playing tennis and focusing on tennis and nothing else. And I think I gave everything for tennis. And I just lost my dad in the pre-season and he was my biggest motivation, and I’m doing it for him.”

Sabalenka is now 12-5 to start the season and is just 10 points short of re-entering the top 10 courtesy of her Doha title, rising to No. 11 in the world when the latest rankings are released on Monday.

Apart from a first round loss to Carla Suarez Navarro at the Australian Open, Sabalenka has made at least the quarter-finals of every tournament she’s played in 2020, reaching the semi-finals in Adelaide – beating Simona Halep along the way – and quarter-finals in Dubai, where the Romanian got her revenge in three sets.

With title triumphs in Wuhan and the WTA Elite Trophy towards the end of last year, Sabalenka has compiled a 22-6 record since September.

Sabalenka’s next tournament will be at the Premier Mandatory BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, starting on March 12. The 21-year-old made the fourth round last year, losing to Angelique Kerber in three sets.