A second round qualifying loss to China’s Liu Fangzhou at the Australian Open suggested that it might be a learning curve sort of a season for the 19-year-old Belorussian Aryna Sabalenka.
They say, especially with raw and talented young player,s that you learn the most from defeats. This was definitely the case for the then #126 Sabalenka, who proudly sported her country’s colours in the Fed Cup 1st round and pushed World #24, Dutch star Kiki Bertens, all the way in a 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-4 defeat. This came after an assured straight sets victory against unknown quantity Michaella Krajicek. It was plain to see that the partisan nature of the Fed Cup stirred up even further the pride and passion in this exciting gem of a prospect. These qualities helped to take Belarus to the final against USA. Sabalenka put US Open Champion Sloane Stephens to the sword, in a narrow 2-3 defeat for the hosts in Minsk.
Tianjin Final Highlight
The powerful and well built, but agile around the court, Sabalenka switched between the grind of the ITF circuit and the main tour to build up her experience and confidence. As the season progressed, so did the Belorussian’s drive, power, and determination. Other than her splendid Federation Cup performances, the highlight of the season was an appearance in the WTA Tianjin final against Maria Sharapova.
Sabalenka went toe-toe with the five-time Slam champion. They exchanged eleven breaks of serve in a thrilling no-holds-barred contest. Sabalenka should have put the match to bed several times, but the experience and big match exposure was just what she needed. In the end, it was simply nerves that defeated Aryna Sabalenka.
Doubles Title Then a Singles Crown Ends a Promising Season
Sabalenka gained a thirst for title winning success in a recent doubles Challenger event on carpet in Taipei, with Russian counterpart Veronika Kudermetova. Again, Sabalenka’s never-say-die spirit came out, as they edged a closely fought final in three sets against the 3rd seeds: Britain’s Naomi Broady and Australian Monique Adamczack.
On the 26th November 2017, the Belorussian reaped the rewards of playing until the bitter end of the season. Sabalenka defeated Naomi Broady again, only as a quarterfinal singles opponent this time, en route to her maiden WTA tournament title in Mumbai. Given the powerful and persistent performances displayed this season, the Mumbai victory was no more than a deserved/fitting end to it.
2018 should see Belrussian Sabalenka Blossom into a top 30 regular
Considering that the likable and prodigious Belorussian talent spent some of June scrambling around the ITF Tour, suffering mobility issues that thwarted at the semi-final stage of the Aegon Manchester tournament, she has salvaged a great season for one so young. Finishing up World #73 was a more than just decent effort.
The rawness and unmolded potential on show, definitely gave the impression that Aryna Sabalenka will get better and better next season. Her main focus will be just to pick up where she left off and take it from there. Next season, a top 30 place would not be beyond her.