SAN JOSE, CA, USA - Aryna Sabalenka soared to her first-ever victory over Donna Vekic in the semifinals of the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic on Saturday night.
The World No.10 was a 6-4, 6-3 winner over the No.5 seed in the second semifinal of the Premier-level event, as she advanced to her first final since winning the Shenzhen Open in January to begin the season.
A tight opener saw the players trade breaks three times, as the set went back-and-forth for nearly the duration after the Belarusian held serve to begin the match, before Sabalenka broke twice more in the second set to seal victory in just under 80 minutes.
"The strategy was to just go out and fight for each point, to try and put more balls in than her," Sabalenka said after the match.
"She's a great player. She doesn't have bad parts of her game. Everything is really good from her, so it was just about fighting and showing your best."
Sabalenka held almost twice the amount of break point chances on Vekic's serve than she faced in the match, going 6-for-13 on the No.5 seed's delivery overall.
The Belarusian overcame eight double faults, as she also served five aces, and won five games in a row from 4-4 in the first set to take command of the encounter.
Sabalenka will play for her second title of the season against surprise finalist Zheng Saisai, after the unseeded Chinese player beat her third seeded player in four matches this week - No.7 seed Maria Sakkari - in Saturday's first semifinal, 7-6(5), 6-2.
"I'm just looking forward to the final. Hopefully, I can show the same level as today," Sabalenka said. "Saisai is a great player, and it's going to be a tough match. I'm looking forward to that match."
Twelve months ago, the 21-year-old, ranked World No.36, fell in the first round of qualifying in San Jose to American Maria Sanchez, before she began a run that's ultimately taken her to the world's Top 10.
"I'm done with expectations. Every match, and I'm just going there and trying to fight for each point, no matter what. Don't think about anything else: just this ball, this point, this game, this set and this match," the Belarusian continued.
"I think my game is improving. I had a bad period with my serving game, but right now I'm feeling better. I can see that I'm getting consistent on the court.
"I have to stay with my good emotions, when I get excited after winning the point. Good emotions, for sure, help me a lot."