LINZ, Austria - Top seed Aryna Sabalenka sealed her successful debut at the Upper Austria Ladies Linz with a flurry of winners to see off Jasmine Paolini in straight sets and advance to the second round.
Two weeks removed from her impressive double at the J&T Banka Ostrava Open, where Sabalenka lifted her second singles title of the year as well as the doubles crown with Elise Mertens, the Belarusian was back to her winning ways after recording a 6-4, 6-4 victory in an hour and 27 minutes.
“I can’t expect easy matches, if you look back at my matches you can see that everything can happen,” Sabalenka laughed in her post-match press conference. “I’m just going out there and expecting, not [always] a great level, but expecting that I’m going out to fight and do everything I can no matter what.
“You never know what’s going to happen on the court.”
Playing for the first time on Linz’s famous gray indoor hardcourts, Sabalenka needed a few games to get going in her first match since the Ostrava finals. Paolini took advantage of the sluggish start, and broke early to take a 4-1 lead.
But as Sabalenka settled into the match, the Belarusian’s world-beating tennis found another level as her heavy forehand found winners off both wings. Her aggressive returns kept the pressure on Paolini’s serve, and she was rewarded with a break back at 4-3. Sabalenka reeled off the next three games in a row to complete the turnaround and grab the first set 6-4.
Paolini did well to fight off three break points across the first six games of the set as Sabalenka continued to attack her second serve, staying on serve through 3-3. But she couldn’t hold back Sabalenka for long, and the Belarusian mounted a herculean effort in the seventh game, creating eight break opportunities to take the decisive break for a 4-3 lead.
The Belarusian traded breaks with Paolini, who fought to extend her stay in Linz by leveling at 4-4, but Sabalenka wouldn’t be denied. She was clinical as she broke back and served out the match to love, booking her spot into the second round.
Read more: Sabalenka, Mertens lead Linz field
“I’ve been working on my service game, and I felt the motion and felt the serve pretty well today,” Sabalenka said. “I’m happy with that. I think the serve helped me a lot today, it was a lot of pressure on her from my serve.”
Up next, Sabalenka will face qualifier Stefanie Voegele for a spot in the quarterfinals, after the Swiss player edged past Viktoria Kuzmova 7-6(3), 6-3 earlier in the day to advance.