MUMBAI, India -- It was a day to celebrate for Aryna Sabalenka, as the Belarusian teenager claimed the biggest title of her career on Sunday with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Slovenia's Dalila Jakupovic in the final of the L&T Mumbai Open, a WTA 125K Series event.
After narrow defeats in her first WTA final at the Tianjin Open, where she lost to Maria Sharapova, and with her Belarusian teammates in the Fed Cup final, No.1-seeded Sabalenka will finally hoist a championship trophy after a breakthrough autumn on the WTA.
Sabalenka credited her coaching team for her victory on court after the match. "I know it's not always easy to work with me!" she laughed.
Sabalenka was excellent on serve throughout the tilt, saving four out of five break points, hitting three aces, and winning 72 percent of points on her second serve -- a higher percentage of points than she won on her first serve.
Sabalenka jumped out to a hot start, utilizing her powerful serve and fiery forehand to great benefit. She eventually ran off a 13-point streak which led her to triple break point for a 4-0 lead. But a sneaky ace by Jakupovic on the first break point surprised Sabalenka, and the Slovenian No.3 was able to recover and get on the board for 3-1.
Nevertheless, Sabalenka remained unnerved until she served at 4-2, where her shots began to misfire. She had to fend off three break points during that game, but, once more, her forehand bailed her out of trouble, and she would not be broken during the set.
At 5-2, Jakupovic served well to get to game point, but her tactic to hit more to the Sabalenka backhand backfired, as the 19-year-old began to slam winners from that side as well. The Belarusian ran down a drop shot to claim set point, which she converted when a Jakupovic forehand error went into the net.
Sabalenka put a foot wrong only once in the match, when the adrenaline from her first set win caused her to drop serve at love in the opening game of the second set with a flurry of unforced errors. But more forehand winners helped her to level the set again at 2-2.
Jakupovic was finding winners of her own from the forehand side as well, and mixed up her shots, trying to keep Sabalenka from garnering a rhythm on her groundstrokes. The 26-year-old Slovene also improved her first serve percentage during the second set, giving her a fighting chance to turn the match around.
But, serving at 4-3, Jakupovic could only watch in dismay as a backhand down the line gave Sabalenka another break point. In the following point, a screaming backhand return winner by the Belarusian gave her the break lead and a chance to serve out the match.
In that game, a stellar lob by the Slovene gave her a break point, handing her one last chance to keep the match alive. But a stunningly strong second serve by Sabalenka forced a long return by Jakupovic, sending the game to deuce. Two points later, Jakupovic hit a forehand long, and Sabalenka was the victor.
Sabalenka is projected to move from her current standing of World No.96 into the Top 75 on Monday, which would be a career-high ranking for the current Belarusian No.2. Meanwhile, Jakupovic will have a second chance to leave Mumbai as a champion, as she will contest the doubles final later on Sunday.