Aryna Sabalenka thrashed compatriot Victoria Azarenka in just over an hour to win the Ostrava Open in emphatic fashion on Sunday. 

The first WTA Tour final between two players from Belarus did not provide the contest many had hoped for, Sabalenka prevailing 6-2 6-2.

Azarenka had to fight hard to hold serve in the opening game but was broken in the fifth, triggering a run from Sabalenka that saw her storm through to take the first set.

The third seed continued to dominate in the next, easing into a 4-1 advantage against an opponent who appeared to be struggling physically. 

A medical timeout was required for Azarenka and while she grabbed a break back to briefly close the deficit, Sabalenka went on to seal victory after 68 minutes on court. 

It is a seventh WTA title for the 22-year-old, this latest success sealed with an ace. She had already triumphed once in 2020, having won in Doha in February.

Victoria Azarenka revealed the secret of her career resurgence as she set up an all-Belarusian final against Aryna Sabalenka at the Ostrava Open.

A 6-1 6-3 victory against Greek player Maria Sakkari carried Azarenka through to Sunday's title match, with Sabalenka later landing a 6-4 6-4 win over American Jennifer Brady.

The remarkable rebirth of Azarenka as a serious force to be reckoned with on the WTA Tour has coincided with tennis emerging from lockdown in August.

After landing the Western and Southern Open title in New York in August, Azarenka followed up with a run to the US Open final, and now she has reached the 40th final of her career.

The former world number one had been considering retirement before this recent run, having not won a tournament since 2016, but Azarenka has brilliantly recaptured the form that took her to a pair of grand slam titles, both in Australia, earlier in her career.

She was dominant throughout against Sakkari, a player who looks to be on the brink of achieving great things herself. Sakkari beat top seed Elena Svitolina in the second round but could not live with Azarenka's power and precision.

Azarenka said afterwards that she had developed "strong assurance in my ability", explaining: "What I'm really happy with is that I play every point like it's my last point, and I think that makes a difference for my opponent."

She added, quoted on the WTA website: "I think I'm making it very hard for them to earn anything on the court, and that's what I’m going to continue to do."

Chasing a 22nd WTA title on Sunday, the 31-year-old Azarenka will be facing a compatriot she has only played against twice on tour before, both times at the US Open.

Sabalenka, nine years her junior, beat Azarenka in a three-set first-round battle at Flushing Meadows last year, but it was a different story at the 2020 grand slam.

That second-round match emphatically went the way of Azarenka, a 6-1 6-3 winner, with fifth seed Sabalenka an early victim as Azarenka marched through the draw.

Victoria Azarenka moved a step closer to a second post-lockdown WTA title as she brushed aside Elise Mertens to reach the Ostrava Open semi-finals.

The Belarusian seized on four of six break-point opportunities to win 6-4 6-1, following up her victory over the same opponent at the same stage of the US Open in September.

In New York, Mertens surprisingly won only one game as Azarenka produced a performance that overwhelmed the 24-year-old, and although Friday's clash was a more close-fought affair in the first set, eventually it became a rout.

Azarenka said afterwards: "I feel she adjusted her game a bit from New York, so it took me a bit of time to adapt to that."

She added, on the WTA website: "Today I didn't expect the same result, but I did feel like I was really in control after I adjusted my game - I felt I made it very difficult for her to earn points."

Former world number one Azarenka finished runner-up to Naomi Osaka at the US Open but took the title at the Western and Southern Open event, also held at Flushing Meadows, in the run-up to the slam.

The WTA season only resumed in August, having been halted in March amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Greek player Maria Sakkari, who took a set off Serena Williams at the US Open, scored an impressive 3-6 6-3 6-1 victory over Tunisian Ons Jabeur and will face Azarenka next.

American Jennifer Brady, another who made her mark in New York by reaching a maiden grand slam semi-final, dug deep to see off impressive Russian qualifier Veronika Kudermetova in three sets.

Kudermetova, who beat second seed Karolina Pliskova in the second round this week, could not build on a strong start to the quarter-final tussle as she exited 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-1.

Brady will face Aryna Sabalenka in Saturday's last-four matches after she defeated Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-0 4-6 6-0.

Karolina Pliskova and Coco Gauff were left to wonder how they failed to reach the Ostrava Open quarter-finals as both squandered dominant positions on Thursday. 

World number six Pliskova, already frustrated by second-round exits from the US Open and French Open since tennis returned from lockdown, suffered a 4-6 6-4 6-3 defeat to Russian Veronika Kudermetova, despite leading by a set and a break at one point. 

Pliskova also lost to the world number 47 at the Western and Southern Open in August, and this was another blow to add to the list of frustrating results for the Czech in the past two months. 

Qualifier Gauff succumbed 1-6 7-5 7-6 (7-2) in her clash with Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, despite having led by a double break at 5-2 in the deciding set.

The American 16-year-old believes she can use the setback as part of her tennis education, saying she needed to play a "smarter" game. 

"I just need to play a little bit smarter on pressure points, to make my opponent play," Gauff said, quoted on the WTA website. 

"I feel like I wasn't nervous today - I think I just need to be smarter. Sometimes I have tendencies, when it gets to the end, to rush out of the points when instead I should just put the ball in the court." 

Belgian Elise Mertens eased to a 6-4 6-2 win over Czech player Karolina Muchova, while Ons Jabeur beat Jelena Ostapenko 6-4 6-4 and US Open semi-finalist Jennifer Brady came from 5-2 behind in the first set to earn a 7-5 6-2 victory over Russian Daria Kasatkina. 

Maria Sakkari claimed the scalp of top seed Elina Svitolina to reach the quarter-finals of the Ostrava Open on Wednesday.

Sakkari beat world number five Svitolina 6-3 6-3 to progress to the last eight of a WTA Premier event for the third time this season.

Unseeded Greek Sakkari struck 32 winners and returned superbly, winning all but eight of 29 points on Svitolina's second serve.

The 23rd-ranked Sakkari will face either wildcard Jelana Ostapenko or Ons Jabeur for a place in the semi-finals.

Ostapenko knocked out fifth seed Petra Martic, the 2017 French Open champion easing to a 6-3 6-1 victory.

Martic had won their previous two meetings, but the Croatian was beaten in just 57 minutes at the indoor hard-court event. 

Anett Kontaveit was another seed to fall, Sara Sorribes Tormo reaching a maiden Premier-level quarter-final at the expense of the Estonian with a 6-1 6-4 success.

Victoria Azarenka is also two wins away from the final, coming from a set down to see off Barbora Krejcikova 2-6 6-2 6-1, and will now face Karolina Muchova or Elise Mertens, who got past Amanda Anisimova in straight sets.

Coco Gauff defeated home favourite Katerina Siniakova in straight sets to advance to the second round of the Ostrava Open.

Teenager Gauff, who made the main draw after a pair of wins in qualifying, fought back from a break down three times in the opening set and went on to triumph 7-5 6-4.

A meeting with third seed Aryna Sabalenka is the next task for the American, who has won just two of her past seven matches on the WTA Tour.

Elena Rybakina has reached a Tour-leading five finals in 2020 but the eighth seed fell to a 6-2 3-6 6-3 defeat to the measured Daria Kasatkina.

Kasatkina played an intelligent, efficient match and had 15 winners to 14 unforced errors, while Rybakina had 35 to 49.

Veronika Kudermetova's 6-2 6-4 victory over Donna Vekic booked a second-round meeting with Karolina Pliskova, while there were also wins for Jennifer Brady and Ons Jabbeur.

Anett Kontaveit came back from a double break down in the deciding set to edge past Ekaterina Alexandrova 4-6 6-2 7-6 (8-6) at the Ostrava Open on Monday. 

Kontaveit, seeded eighth, was made to work hard for victory by her Russian opponent, who had opened a 5-2 lead in the third set before being pegged back for a deciding tie-break. 

Estonian Kontaveit saved two match points in the breaker, ultimately prevailing in two hours and 14 minutes to set up a second-round clash with Sara Sorribes Tormo after her 6-1 6-3 victory over Magda Linette. 

"I was so close to being out, so I just tried to stay in the match," Kontaveit said. "I never really gave up. I tried to be a little more aggressive when I was down. I felt maybe I'd taken a little bit off my shots.

"She was really getting on top of me so I felt I had to push back, and sometimes when you take those risks they pay off. 

"I think it was more adrenaline and instinct, especially at the end of the third. I was behind so badly that I was just trying to stay in it. I thought it was important that I never gave anything to her, she had to earn it to go in front." 

Elsewhere, Maria Sakkari set up a second-round meeting with number one seed Elina Svitolina after a 6-3 6-3 win over Kristyna Pliskova, while Barbora Krejcikova beat Tereza Martincova 7-5 6-1.

French Open champion Iga Swiatek has set her sights on becoming the consistent major winner women's tennis has been lacking over recent years.

The unseeded Pole capped a remarkable fortnight at Roland Garros by claiming the title on Saturday with a win over Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin in the final.

Supreme Swiatek did not drop a single set over seven rounds, also accounting for tournament favourite Simona Halep and 2019 finalist Marketa Vondrousova along the way.

The 19-year-old looks destined for a bright future and, once she has enjoyed her success, will look to remain a force on the WTA Tour.

With 23-time major winner Serena Williams having not won a grand slam since the 2017 Australian Open, the women's game has not seen a group of players dominate in the way Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have on the men's side.

"I know my game isn't developed perfectly," the world number 54 said after her 6-4 6-1 win over Kenin in the final.

"I think the biggest change for me is going to be to be consistent, this is what women's tennis is struggling with. 

"That's why we have so many new grand slam winners because we are not as consistent as Rafa, Roger and Novak. That's why my goal is going to be to be consistent. 

"It's going to be really hard to achieve that. Right now, when I'm here and I'm a grand slam champion, it's crazy. I'm just going to enjoy the moment and I'm going to think about my future goals later.

"I'm just proud of myself. I've done a great job the past two weeks. I wasn't expecting to win this trophy. It's obviously amazing for me. I just feel like I kind of made history.

"I know that there are no limits. Even though you're really young and you're an underdog, you can do a lot in a sport like tennis."

Swiatek revealed her unbelievable 6-1 6-2 fourth-round win over former champion Halep felt like such a big accomplishment that she was able to play her final three matches free of pressure.

Her focus on having the right mentality on court has also helped her to seemingly play without nerves, as she coolly handled her run to victory despite having never made the last eight of a major before.

"Actually, it was so crazy for me winning against Simona that I already thought about the tournament as like my lifetime achievement," Swiatek explained.

"Really, I had no expectations. I knew it's going to be tough in the final. I didn't want to stress a lot about it, so I just told myself that I don't care and I tried to believe in that. 

"In the end I really just enjoyed the moment. It's not that I don't care if I'm going to win or lose, I'm just not thinking about it all the time. 

"I use visualisation. I meditate, especially during breaks during match. You ask what is the role of sports psychology in the performance, and I think there is a huge role. 

"I can see the difference when I'm mentally prepared and I'm ready to handle the stress, the pressure. I can see the difference where I can't. That's why I'm sometimes losing in first round and sometimes I can win a tournament. 

"My next goal is going to be more consistent and use the skills I have every time because it's also tiring for your mind."

Sofia Kenin confirmed a leg injury hindered her significantly in her French Open final defeat to Iga Swiatek, to a stage where she could barely move in the second set.

The Australian Open champion was denied a second grand slam title of 2020 when unseeded teenager Swiatek triumphed 6-4 6-1 at Roland Garros on Saturday.

Kenin received heavy strapping to her left thigh during a medical time-out in the final and revealed she had been dealing with an issue throughout the second week of the tournament.

Asked how she felt after falling at the last hurdle, the American said: "First of all, obviously a little bit disappointed and upset.

"She obviously played a really good match. She's really hot right now, playing some really great tennis. 

"I'm not going to use this as an excuse, but my leg obviously was not the best. It's obviously disappointing. I've got to get some rest and hopefully my leg will get better.

"I've had it for a few of my matches. I've had to tape. I saw the physio and everything, so I was doing everything I can. 

"Today obviously after the first set I just felt it was so tight, I couldn't move. That's why I had to call the trainer. It just got worse. It is quite unfortunate it had to happen in this match. 

"I can't remember when it happened. First two matches were fine. I think it was maybe third match I already had it taped or fourth round. I don't remember exactly. 

"I've had this in the past, but not quite often. I'm obviously working well on my fitness - it's not such a problem that I have. I always used to get it taped on my left abductor. 

"Obviously it's expected that it's a little bit sore, given the circumstances, how many matches I played, three-setters. On clay it's very physical. You have to move and slide a lot."

Kenin praised the way Swiatek, who showed few signs of nerves in her first major final, served and dictated play on her forehand.

She added: "Like I said, she played really well. All credit to her. 

"A few things just didn't go my way. Then, yeah, unfortunately my leg wasn't in the best condition, I guess.

"I'm not going to [the WTA event in] Ostrava, given my leg. I have to rest and I had a great run here.

"It sucks the season is over for us. I really wish there were more tournaments. I'm going to use this time to get my leg rested and everything, and, yeah, start pre-season."

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski has expressed his delight after Iga Swiatek ended Poland's long wait for a singles grand slam champion.

Swiatek, 19, capped a stunning fortnight at Roland Garros with a 6-4 6-1 win over Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin in the Paris final on Saturday.

The unseeded player did not drop a set over her seven rounds, other notable wins including an emphatic victory over tournament favourite Simona Halep in the fourth round and seeing off the 2019 finalist, Marketa Vondrousova, in her first match.

Just two years ago she had won the junior title at Wimbledon and prior to this tournament had never reached the last eight of a tennis major.

Her run to victory captured the attention of Lewandowski, another of Poland's sporting success stories.

"What an amazing success, what a great story! Good job Iga Swiatek," Lewandowski wrote on Twitter after the win over Kenin, having also sent a message of support earlier this week.

Swiatek had earlier referenced the traction her run at the event had been getting in her country.

"I want to thank all the fans and everyone watching in Poland; I know it's pretty crazy back home," she said in her on-court interview.

Swiatek was later asked in her news conference if she understood her life was about to change.

She added: "That's true. I mean, it's hard to comment on that right now because I need to come back home first, see what's going on in Poland.

"I know it's going to be crazy. I think I'm going to get used to that, it's not going to be a problem for me. I didn't have a problem with getting attention, with people surrounding me.

"I think it's going to be okay for me. I really appreciate all the support I got during the whole two weeks.

"Even though I wasn't on my phone and I wasn't answering every person, I know that the whole country was behind me and they all believed in me. I'm going to be happy and proud."

Poland captain Lewandowski, who was recently named UEFA Player of the Year, will be hoping to cap a fine sporting weekend for the nation when his team host Italy in the Nations League on Sunday.

Iga Swiatek said her French Open triumph was "crazy" as the 19-year-old became Poland's first grand slam singles champion.

Her junior Wimbledon title two years ago has been followed by Swiatek beginning to make an impact on the women's tour, but she arrived in Paris as a major outsider for this fortnight.

Ranked 54th in the world, the unseeded teenager performed way above that status and crushed the hopes of Sofia Kenin in the final, beating the Australian Open champion 6-4 6-1 on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Becoming Poland's first champion at the clay-court grand slam left Swiatek bewildered.

"I don't know what's going on," she said. "I'm so happy. I'm so glad my family was here finally and I don't know, it's crazy.

"Two years ago I won a junior grand slam and I'm now here, it feels like such a short time, I'm just overwhelmed. Thank you all for cheering, it was a great final.

"I was mentally consistent, I wanted to play better than the last rounds, today was stressful but I don't know what made the difference. I won the match."

Kenin needed a medical timeout in the second set and the American was perhaps inhibited, but Swiatek ruthlessly charged to the winning line before sparing a thought for her opponent.

"Basically, I hope you're okay," she said, addressing Kenin. "I don't know if you're injured, you made a great job in this tournament. I don't know if there's a chance you played better without injury."

Swiatek lowered her face mask to kiss the trophy - the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen - at the presentation, and she might be a player who wins multiple grand slams in the future, having looked so impressive at this tournament.

"Maybe it just had to be like that, another underdog won a grand slam in tennis, women's tennis is like that right now - it's crazy!" Swiatek added.

Watching Rafael Nadal dominate the men's event in Paris has inspired her.

"I was watching every year how Rafa lifted the trophy," Swiatek said. "It's crazy I'm in the same place. I want to thank all the fans and everyone watching in Poland; I know it's pretty crazy back home."

Swiatek's father, Tomasz, competed in rowing for Poland at the 1988 Seoul Olympics and has been a driving force in her own sporting career.

He was at courtside and Swiatek ventured into the crowd to hug all of her team at the end of the final.

"Basically he just taught me how to be a professional," she said. "It's hard to describe but he raised me in that way that I feel pretty confident on court.

"It's hard to get my thoughts together, but he gave us everything."

Becoming emotional and searching for the right words, she added: "Sorry, it's hard to say it, but I love him."

Kenin spoke briefly, saying: "I just want to congratulate Iga on a great tournament and a great match. You played really well and congratulations to your team.

"I would like to thank the crowd - it was good to see you guys with this whole pandemic."

Teenager Iga Swiatek capped a remarkable fortnight at Roland Garros by destroying Sofia Kenin in straight sets to claim the French Open title.

The 19-year-old has been the story of the final grand slam of 2020, with her dominant victory over 2018 champion Simona Halep in the fourth round announcing her as a legitimate contender for the crown.

A clash with reigning Australian Open champion Kenin looked an extremely enticing final but, after a frenetic first set, it turned into a one-sided affair as Swiatek eased to a 6-4 6-1 victory over the ailing American, who received heavy strapping to her left thigh during a medical timeout.

Swiatek did not drop a set in the tournament and never lost more than five games in a match, becoming the first Pole to win a grand slam singles title.

A statement of intent came early from Swiatek as she held to love in the first game and raced into a 3-0 lead, only for Kenin to produce a demonstration of her quality by erasing that deficit with three successive games of her own.

Swiatek broke again in an engrossing eighth game that featured a 19-shot rally and five deuces. Kenin immediately responded as both players struggled to hold serve, but an errant crosscourt backhand gave the set to Swiatek.

Kenin looked in the mood to force a decider when a tremendous forehand return gave her a break in the opening game of the second, only for Swiatek to produce a swift reply and then hold for a 2-1 lead.

The break in play for the medical time-out only served to help Swiatek, who broke again when Kenin went wide with a double-handed backhand.

Swiatek continued to grow in confidence as the finish line drew nearer and her reward for a performance defined by precision, stern defence and exquisite use of the drop shot was secured with a forehand winner that saw her sink to her knees in disbelief at her incredible achievement.

 
Data Slam: Net gains key for Swiatek

The tactic of using the drop shot against Kenin – clearly nursing an injury to her thigh – worked to perfection, with its success reflected by the fact Swiatek won all but one of her seven net points. Fourth seed Kenin soon ran out of answers for Swiatek's versatile game and committed 23 unforced errors.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Swiatek – 25/17
Kenin – 10/23

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Swiatek – 1/3
Kenin – 1/3

BREAK POINTS WON
Swiatek – 6/9
Kenin – 3/3

Teenager Iga Swiatek capped a remarkable fortnight at Roland Garros, destroying Sofia Kenin 6-4 6-1 to claim the French Open title in Paris.

Iga Swiatek has made the bold, charmingly teenage claim that she doesn't care whether she wins or loses Saturday's French Open final.

On the day before the biggest match of her life against Sofia Kenin, the Polish 19-year-old had a gentle reality check when her hopes of a twin triumph in Paris were scotched.

Until she and Nicole Melichar were beaten in the semi-finals of the doubles on Friday, sliding 7-6 (7-5) 1-6 6-4 to Alexa Guarachi and Desirae Krawczyk, this had been a fortnight where the former Wimbledon girls' champion appeared unbeatable.

Swiatek has remarkably dropped just 23 games in six singles matches, the fewest by a French Open finalist since Mary Pierce lost only 10 games while sprinting to the 1994 title match.

She is being heralded a new superstar of tennis, and can joins the ranks of teenage grand slam winners at Roland Garros, a passport to prosperity. In the Open Era, there have been 13 previous teenage women's singles champions at majors.

But amid the attention, the player who chewed up top seed and title favourite Simona Halep in the fourth round is taking each experience in her stride, guided by a travelling sports psychologist in Daria Abramowicz.

And Swiatez is impervious, it seems, to not only the scale of her achievement but the stakes involved.

"I don't care if I'm going to lose or win. I'm going to just play my best tennis," she said. "The final is also a great result, so really I have no pressure."

Her casual dismissiveness is of course not simply down to the insouciance of youth, and can perhaps be most closely traced to the work she and Abramowicz put in, taking the stress out of situations.

"I don't know how I made the decision when I was younger, but I always wanted to work with a psychologist," Swiatek said. "I had this belief that it's like a big part of the game. But my parents, they weren't as open to that as I was."

Hers is a joyous game to behold, a mix of blistering power and trickery that has made her the favourite for the match with many observers, despite Kenin having won the Australian Open at the start of the year.

Swiatek's world ranking of 54 makes no sense in the context of this fortnight, and it will take a major leap forward next week.

She, Kenin and the likes of Naomi Osaka, who won the US Open last month, are faces who can shape the future of women's tennis.

And with the men's tennis Big Three approaching their dotage, the women's game could see the sort of boon, with real rivalries between grand slam winners, that it has arguably lacked for some time.

Pam Shriver, the great former doubles partner of Martina Navratilova, senses there is the potential for an exciting new dynamic.

Looking ahead to the clash of Swiatek and 21-year-old American Kenin, Shriver said: "We're always wondering where the next great rivalry is going to be. Well, let's just wonder about this one because they are two years apart."

Shriver expressed an eagerness to find out how Saturday's match-up plays out.

"If Swiatek's forehand holds up in the pressure of a major final, that's what is going to give her the best chance," Shriver said in an interview for the Roland Garros website.

"Swiatek has an edge on the forehands. Kenin has shored up her forehand so much the last two years but it can still go a bit wobbly.

"But I guess we know how Kenin shows up in major finals and big matches because she did in Melbourne."

If Swiatek has any concerns, it centres on how her relaxed attitude might be tested by the sense of occasion, should she allow her mind to drift towards its significance.

For one thing, she is the first Polish woman in the Open Era to reach the French Open singles final. Her country has never had a grand slam singles champion.

"Usually I'm that kind of player who is playing better under pressure. If I'm not going to choke up, I think everything will be fine," Swiatek said.

"But, well, there's a reason why I was so efficient. Really I'm staying super focused. I'm not letting my opponents to play their best tennis. So I hope I'm going to do that on Saturday."

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