GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- No.7 seed Paula Badosa made a dominant debut at the 2021 Akrona WTA Finals Guadalajara, winning 10 consecutive games to defeat top seed and World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka 6-4, 6-0. With the win, the 23-year-old Spaniard joins No.4 seed Maria Sakkari atop the Chichén Itzá group after Day 2. Badosa has now won her past seven matches dating back to her Indian Wells triumph three weeks ago. 

Thursday night's match was the second meeting of the year between Badosa and Sabalenka. The two dueled over the summer at the Western & Southern Open, where Badosa rallied from 1-3 down in the final set to edge the Belarusian, 5-7, 6-2, 7-6(4) in the second round. 

While their first meeting in Cincinnati yielded a 2 hour and 20 minute thriller, Badosa found solutions quickly to tally her fourth Top 5 win of the season. After falling behind 2-4 in the opening set. Though Badosa found herself down an early break, she had successfully kept Sabalenka frustrated over the first six games of the match by saving five break points and using her physicality and speed to force Sabalenka to hit extra balls to win rallies. 

Turning point: Badosa's gritty early effort would pay dividends. After getting broken to 2-4, the Spaniard bounced right back. Sabalenka had two game points to build a 5-2 lead at 40-15, but a forehand error and double fault brought the game to deuce. Badosa saved a third game point with a driven backhand into the Sabalenka backhand that the Belarusian sliced meekly into the net.

From deuce, two more Sabalenka forehand errors would give the break back to Badosa and the Spaniard was off and running. 

"After I lost the serve, I was really disappointed in myself and emotionally I was, like, really crazy," Sabalenka said after the match. "I couldn't just stop myself and kind of put myself back in the match."

As Sabalenka's frustration grew and led to a flurry of unforced errors, Badosa kept the baseline pressure on and kept the top seed at bay, punctuating her comeback by winning the last 10 games of the match. 

Badosa finished the match with 14 winners to 19 unforced errors, converting all five of her break points. In contrast, Sabalenka served at just 41% for the match, hit eight double-faults, 15 winners to 31 unforced errors. She also went 1-for-7 on break points. 

Badosa on what adjustments she made after 4-2: "In that moment maybe I was playing a little bit waiting what could happen and didn't want to miss," Badosa said. "Sometimes the more you doubt in these conditions, the more you miss. So in that moment I accept the moment. 

"I wasn't happy with my service game. I said to myself, 'OK, now you have to be as her level, aggressive, because she was being very aggressive.' I wanted to play against her. Let's see how it goes. Even though maybe it could go well, it could go bad. That's what I did. I said, Now you have to change, stop waiting for her miss and go for it. That's what I did."

Photo by WTA/Jimmie48

Next up for Badosa: The Spaniard will face Maria Sakkari. The Greek star defeated Iga Swiatek 6-2, 6-4 earlier in the day. The winner will sit alone atop the Chichén Itzá group.

"I think she played a very good match today," Badosa said. "I think the conditions were OK for her, as well. She felt quite good on court. I expect a tough match.

"It's a little bit different than today, different match. Going to be maybe more tactic. But it's challenging. I like the challenge. Every match is going to be tough. Every match is going to be a battle. It's the last tournament of the year. I'm ready for it and ready to give everything every match."