MUMBAI, India -- Top-seeded Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka will have another chance to claim the biggest title of her career this year, as she advanced to the championship match at the L&T Mumbai Open on Saturday, with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over unseeded Frenchwoman Amandine Hesse.
Dalila Jakupovic of Slovenia will be Sabalenka's opponent in the final of the WTA 125K Series event, as the unseeded player overcame Uzbekistan's Sabina Sharipova in the earlier semifinal, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. Jakupovic won a staggering 68 percent of points on her second serve, and converted five of six break points in the match.
Sabalenka, fresh off a dramatic Fed Cup final where the Belarus team narrowly lost to the United States, displayed her powerful game to great effect against Hesse, and will aim to finish the year with a title, to go with her runner-up finish at the Tianjin Open, where she lost in a tight match to Maria Sharapova.
The 19-year-old No.1 seed served beautifully against Hesse, hitting nine aces in the 61-minute match. Sabalenka won a whopping 93 percent of points on her first serve, and never once faced a break point. She also outplayed Hesse on the Frenchwoman's serve, going 3-for-3 when she had a chance to break.
Sabalenka won 12 of the first 13 points of the match to race to a 3-0 lead. There were no problems for the Belarusian as the first set wore on, serving an ace to clinch a 5-2 advantage. In the next game, a superb dropshot off the backhand gave Sabalenka set point, which she converted when Hesse double faulted.
Hesse shook off the nerves in the second set, starting to find the range on her groundstrokes and staying with Sabalenka through 3-2. But the inability to get any looks on Sabalenka's serve frustrated the demonstrative Frenchwoman, and she was broken when she could not keep a Sabalenka return that dropped on the baseline in play.
Sabalenka looked in total command until she served for the match, where she fell behind 15-30 due to a handful of errors, giving Hesse hope for a comeback. But an ace two points later gave Sabalenka match point, and after Hesse hit a backhand service return into the net, Sabalenka was through to another final.
In the first semifinal, Jakupovic started the match with a quick break of Sharipova’s service, off of a backhand dropshot winner. But Sharipova quickly leveled the match for 2-2 off of a wondrous passing shot, and then moved to a 4-2 lead after a second consecutive break of Jakupovic’s serve. The Uzbek held through for a 6-3 opening set advantage.
But Jakupovic started to extend points further, and the amount of unforced errors from Sharipova began to creep up. The Slovene blinked first in the second set, as, serving down 2-3, consecutive unforced errors off the forehand side gave Jakupovic double break point. Sharipova then double faulted to hand over the lead.
The players exchanged breaks in the next two games, giving Jakupovic the opportunity to serve for the set at 5-3. Two successful drop shots by Jakupovic gave her double set point, and after Sharipova sent a service return wide, the match was even at a set apiece.
The points got even longer in the decider, featuring numerous backhand-to-backhand rallies. Sharipova had the first break points of the set at 3-2, but unforced errors erased the first two, and a service winner by Jakupovic eliminated the third. When the Slovene got out of that jam and held for 3-3, the match turned. Sharipova hit two unforced errors early in that game and a double fault at 0-40 to get broken at love.
Jakupovic garnered confidence from there, hitting more exceptional drop shots and surviving wearying rallies to hold the lead. At 5-3, another double fault by Sharipova gave Jakupovic a match point, which she converted to advance to the biggest final of her career.