Fixture: (1) Aryna Sabalenka vs Ekaterina Alexandrova
Date: 22 October 2021
Tournament: VTB Kremlin Cup
Venue: Moscow, Russia
Category: WTA 500
Prize money: $565,530
Live telecast: USA - Tennis Channel & ESPN | UK - Amazon Prime Video
Sabalenka will be keen to finish her career-best season on a high. The Belarusian made a couple of Grand Slam semifinals this year for the first time in her career, in addition to winning titles in Abu Dhabi and Madrid.
Her exploits have catapulted her to a career-high World No. 2 ranking and have rewarded with her maiden berth in singles at the WTA Finals.
As the top seed in Moscow this week, the 23-year-old will look to win the title and boost her confidence ahead of the season-ending championships.
The Belarusian started her campaign with a tough three-set win against Wimbledon quarterfinalist Ajla Tomljanvic. The Australian made Sabalenka work hard but the Belarusian managed to prevail 7-6(2), 4-6, 6-1.
World No. 37 Ekaterina Alexandrova, meanwhile, has had an inconsistent season so far. She made the quarterfinals or better in five tournaments in the first half of the year. But since June, the 26-year-old has struggled.
After a gap of seven tournaments, the Russian has finally managed to reach the last eight once again, in Moscow. She was handed a walkover by fifth seed Ons Jabeur in her opener and followed it up with a 6-4, 6-1 demolition of Anhelina Kalinina.
Having regained her form, Alexandrova will be eager to put up a spirited fight against Sabalenka and keep her journey alive in her home event.
Aryna Sabalenka leads Ekaterina Alexandrova 2-1 in their head-to-head. Although Alexandrova won their first meeting at the Shenzhen final in 2017, Sabalenka bounced back to win their next two encounters, at Shenzhen and St. Petersburg, in 2019.
This will be a battle between two players who like to play ferocious, attacking tennis. The outcome of the match could depend on the two players' serves and unforced error count.
Alexandrova is a more consistent server than Sabalenka. However, her serving stats against Kalinina in her last match weren't very encouraging. The Russian produced three aces but those were offset by five double faults, with her first serve percentage dropping to as low as 47%.
Alexandrova needs to serve better if she wants to go toe-to-toe with a player of Sabalenka's caliber. The Belarusian, on the other hand, powered 10 aces past Tomljanovic in her Moscow opener while committing five double faults.
If Sabalenka can maintain this kind of serving form, she will have a huge advantage over Alexandrova.
Prediction: Aryna Sabalenka to win in straight sets.