No.2 seed Aryna Sabalenka made quick work of her semifinal at the Adelaide International 1 on Saturday, cruising past Irina-Camelia Begu 6-3, 6-2 to reach the singles championship match.
World No.5 Sabalenka needed just 1 hour and 18 minutes to close out 34th-ranked Begu and make her 19th career singles final on the Hologic WTA Tour. Sabalenka is seeking her 11th title, but her first since 2021.
Sabalenka will face 18-year-old Czech qualifier Linda Noskova, who advanced to her first WTA final by defeating World No.2 Ons Jabeur 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 to tally her second Top 10 win of the week. En route to her first WTA final, Noskova has not only defeated No.2 Jabeur, No.9 Daria Kasatkina and former No.1 Victoria Azarenka, but she has also come from match point down in two of her victories, first against Anna Kalinskaya in the first round of qualifying and again against Azarenka.
Turning around the rivalry: Begu had defeated Sabalenka in their only previous meeting, which came via a straightforward two-set win in Miami last year. Begu also came into this week's semifinal on a hot streak, having picked up two Top 20 wins over Jelena Ostapenko and Veronika Kudermetova in the previous rounds.
But this time around, Sabalenka was the dominant player on the day, with her 17 winners more than doubling Begu's eight. Sabalenka went 3-for-7 on break points in the match while Begu was unsuccessful on her three break points, which all came at 4-2 in the first set.
Sabalenka has now reached the final at her last two events, as she ended 2022 with a runner-up showing to Caroline Garcia at the WTA Finals in Fort Worth. This marks the first time Sabalenka has won back-to-back semifinals since Stuttgart and Madrid in the spring of 2021.
Sabalenka speaks: "I’m happy with the level I played, especially with [Begu's] different game, she’s playing a little bit of a different style," Sabalenka said on court after her win. "I’m super happy that I was able to win this match.
"Probably we did everything right in the pre-season," Sabalenka continued with a laugh. "I think this is the key."
Key moments: Sabalenka’s powerful hitting garnered her a love break for a 4-2 advantage in the first set, but it was in the following game where Sabalenka showed off her mental mettle. Solid Begu forehands gave the unseeded player a 0-40 lead, but clutch serving by Sabalenka helped her reel off five straight points as she got out of that jam en route to a one-set lead.
Another powerful forehand by Sabalenka allowed her to break Begu in the first game of the second set, and she eased home from there without facing any more break points. Sabalenka closed out a love hold with an ace to wrap up the victory.
Noskova holds her nerve over ailing Jabeur
Playing in her second WTA semifinal, Noskova unleashed the power game that has earned her wins over Kasatkina and Azarenka this week, to earn an early break in the opening set. Having spent much of the early stages of the match stretching her back, Jabeur took a medical timeout late in the second set to address her lower back. Noskova kept her composure to take the first set 6-3.
Jabeur cleaned up her game in the second set to force a decider, but Noskova dug out of a 0-40 opening service game to hold. Struggling to find her own first serve, Jabeur's game unraveled and Noskova took her chance. Thoroughly battle-tested after having saved match points in two of her five wins this week, Noskova broke for a 3-1 lead and showed steely focus to hold her serve through the end of the match.
Noskova came into Adelaide with just two Top 100 wins in her young career. She has moved that tally to eight and will go for a third Top 10 win of the week against Sabalenka.
Earlier on Saturday, the doubles final opened play, and No.6 seeds Asia Muhammad and Taylor Townsend took the title. The all-American duo upset No.1 seeds Storm Hunter of Australia and Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 7-6(2).
Muhammad and Townsend took 1 hour and 25 minutes to beat the top-seeded team, which featured WTA Doubles World No.1 Siniakova alongside WTA Doubles World No.10 Hunter.
Despite their opponents' lofty rankings, the Americans raced to a 4-0 lead in the opening frame and claimed the one-set lead after just half an hour.
Hunter and Siniakova battled back from a break down to push the second set into a tiebreak, but Muhammad and Townsend swept the last five points of the match.
Muhammad won her eighth career WTA doubles title, and her first since she won Melbourne Summer Set with Jessica Pegula one year ago. Townsend picked up her second career WTA doubles title, with her first coming three years ago at 2020 Auckland.