LINZ, Austria - Top seed Aryna Sabalenka extended her winning streak to eight in a row on Saturday, surviving a late onslaught from a surging Barbora Krejcikova to see off the Czech, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 and reach the Upper Austria Ladies Linz final.
"It wasn't an easy match for me," Sabalenka said after the match. "She played really well. I didn't play my best, but I tried my best, so I'm happy I could handle this game and win it."
Sabalenka not only secured a first year-end Top 10 finish, but also closed in on a third title of 2020, which would tie her with Simona Halep for most won this season, after two hours and three minutes on Centre Court.
"I'm really happy with my level and these results, especially after I was down 6-0, 4-0 during one of my matches in Ostrava. I didn't expect something like this to happen, but winning that match gave me a lot because I changed so much in my preparation and my mental game.
"Sometimes you have to play matches like that to improve in a big way. I can't say I'm so surprised by this level, but I know I worked very hard to show this level, so I really appreciate my team and what my coach has given, as well."
The reigning Qatar Total Open champion rode a seven-match winning streak into the semifinals, having captured her second title of the season at the J&T Banka Ostrava Open, and hadn't lost a set all week in Linz, easing through the likes of Jasmine Paolini and Stefanie Voegele before Oceane Dodin was forced to retire with an injury in the second set of their quarterfinal clash.
"I've been working a lot with my, former hitting partner, now coach, on certain shots like shot cross court and other variations, so that's some of my biggest improvements. My serve and return have improved a lot, as well. I think this helped me a lot to find my rhythm in singles again, and play this well again."
Looking to make an early push and join longtime doubles partner Elise Mertens in the championship match, the Belarusian was first to break, and though Krejcikova soon leveled proceedings, Sabalenka continued to apply pressure to the Czech's serve, which ultimately faltered as she broke for the opening set.
A former WTA Doubles No.1, Krejcikova is in the midst of a singles surge, having made her first Grand Slam second week at Roland Garros with wins over countrywoman Barbora Strycova and Tsvetana Pironkova. Into the Top 100 for the first time in her career, the 24-year-old was aiming to reach her second career WTA final - and first since she finished runner-up in Nürnberg as a qualifier back in 2017.
She soon turned the tables on Sabalenka in the second set, rallying from a 2-0 deficit and broke the former World No.9 at love to level the match.
The ensuing decider saw both women save a break points through the first seven games, and though Krejcikova initially dug out of a 0-40 hole in the eighth, she couldn't save a fourth break point chance engineered by Sabalenka and the top seed was set to serve for the match.
Undaunted by the pressure, Sabalenka secured victory on her first match point, and will next face No.2 seed and longtime doubles partner Elise Mertens, who was first into the championship match after a three-setter of her own against 2018 runner-up Ekaterina Alexandrova.
"At the beginning of this tournament, I said it would be very cool to play Elise in the final, and now here we are. It's a great thing, and she's a great player. Every match we've played before has been at a great level and big fight, so I'm really looking forward to it."