NEW HAVEN, CT, USA - Aryna Sabalenka is one victory away from her first WTA title after edging past No.5 seed Julia Goerges, 6-4, 7-6(3) to reach the final of the Connecticut Open.
The on-the-rise Belarusian already owns one victory over Goerges - besting the German in three sets on grass at Eastbourne earlier this year. Sabalenka, then ranked World No.45, has since slashed her ranking to a career-high No.25 after stellar weeks in Montreal and Cincinnati.
“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.
“This is just about the mental game. You have to be focused like 100% on every point, sometimes try to find the chance on her serve.”
Sabalenka’s all-or-nothing aggression had Goerges under pressure once again for much of the first set - brought up break points right away in the second game of the match, with the German’s tenacious defense bailing her out of trouble.
She dodged three more break points in a marathon game to keep them on serve at 4-4, but she couldn’t hold off Sabalenka for long. The 20-year-old finally broke through to close out the set a few games later with a booming backhand return.
Goerges made the perfect start to the second set, grabbing an early break to lead 1-0. But Sabalenka never backed down, and they were back on serve a few games later at 4-4. After trading breaks again, the pair marched into a tiebreak where Sabalenka closed out the match in style - recovering from a 0-3 deficit and reeling off seven points in a row.
“Overall it was a high-quality match from both of us, so I’m taking a lot of positives out of this,” Goerges said afterwards. “For me it was overall a great preparation for US Open next week - I had four great matches against great players, and that's the kind of matches you want.
“I tried a lot of different things today, so 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, and she deserves it today. And I just wish her the best tomorrow.”
Up next, Sabalenka will take on the winner between Carla Suarez Navarro and Monica Puig in her fourth career WTA final. It’ll be her first meeting against both players.
“[Tomorrow] I will tell to myself like, ‘Okay, this is the next one, try to enjoy it. Just enjoy. Don't put too much pressure on yourself, just enjoy.’ It's enough,” Sabalenka said.
“I played a lot of three sets this year. I'm more fresh, ready for the final. It's not the first time, so I am a little bit knowing what I have to do tomorrow, mentally.”