Fixture: (4) Victoria Azarenka vs (3) Aryna Sabalenka
Date: 25 October 2020
Tournament: J&T Banka Ostrava Open 2020
Venue: Ostrava, Czech Republic
Category: WTA Premier
Surface: Indoor hardcourt
Prize money: $528,500
Match timing: 2:30 pm CEST, 6 pm IST
Live telecast: USA - ESPN / Tennis Channel
Victoria Azarenka vs Aryna Sabalenka preview
Third seed Aryna Sabalenka and fourth seed Victoria Azarenka will battle it out in the summit clash at the J&T Banka Ostrava Open 2020 on Sunday.
This will be the first-ever all-Belarusian final on the WTA tour. The two compatriots will both be gunning for their second title of the year, but there is a stark contrast in the way they reached the final.
Azarenka started slow against 85th-ranked Barbora Krejcikova but then blazed through each of her subsequent matches without breaking a sweat. Barring that encounter against Krejcikova, where she registered a 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 victory, the two-time Australian Open champion has displayed the same deadly form that took her to the Western & Southern Open title and the US Open final earlier this year.
Against seventh seed Elise Mertens, Azarenka hardly put a foot wrong en route to a 6-4, 6-1 win. The former World No. 1 carried that momentum into the semifinals against the in-form Maria Sakkari and easily beat the Greek 6-1, 6-3.
World No. 12 Aryna Sabalenka meanwhile has a 23-10 record for the year, with her biggest highlight being her triumph in Doha. But even though she has won more matches this year than her older compatriot, her performances since the season restart haven't been nearly as impressive as Azarenka's.
In six tournaments Sabalenka has reached the final only once, which is this week. Apart from a semifinal at Strasbourg, the 22-year-old failed to make it to even the quarters in any event.
Even this week, Sabalenka's campaign has been anything but straightforward. The third seed was put to a stern test by the fast-rising Coco Gauff before she rebounded for a 1-6, 7-5, 7-6(2) win. In the quarterfinals, she came back from the brink - she was in danger of being double bagelled by Sara Sorribes Tormo at one stage - to complete a bizarre 0-6, 6-4, 6-0 win.
Sabalenka finally found her range in the semis against Lexington champion Jennifer Brady, whom she dispatched 6-4, 6-4.
Victoria Azarenka vs Aryna Sabalenka head-to-head
Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenka have split their two meetings so far, so their head-to-head is currently tied at 1-1.
Sabalenka won their first showdown 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 at the 2019 US Open. Azarenka then avenged that defeat this year with a 6-1, 6-3 rout at the same tournament.
Victoria Azarenka vs Aryna Sabalenka prediction
Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenka are both known for their proficiency from the baseline. Sabalenka is the more aggressive of the two players, but that style of play comes with its own share of pitfalls as she tends to commit a few too many unforced errors.
That was starkly evident when the two met at Flushing Meadows this year. Sabalenka's unforced error count blew up to 17 by the end of the first set, against just three winners. The trend has been similar for her this week in Ostrava too, because of which she has had to play a couple of extremely long matches.
Sabalenka is also still alive in the doubels draw, which means she has spent considerably more time on the court than Azarenka - who on her part has breezed thorough her last two matches. If the match goes the distance, the balance would tilt in favor of the far fresher Azarenka.
Sabalenka's serve hasn't been too reliable this week either, and has leaked 12 double faults. In contrast, Azarenka has produced 12 aces against just two double faults so far.
If Sabalenka doesn't address her service woes before the final, she is likely going to have a hard time against a returner as spectacular as Victoria Azarenka.
Prediction: Victoria Azarenka to win in three sets.Published 25 Oct 2020, 00:49 IST