Countrywomen Sabalenka and Azarenka will square off against each other in the Ostrava singles final. Photo by: Stephanie Myles/OpenCourt.ca
- Aryna Sabalenka vs. Victoria Azarenka in Ostrava is its first-ever all-Belarus WTA singles final
- Sabalenka is the higher ranked, but Azarenka is the favorite (-200)
- Can Sabalenka, nine years younger, prevail after a busy of week of tennis? We break it down below.
In terms of rankings, it couldn’t be much closer.
Aryna Sabalenka is No. 12 in the world, while Victoria Azarenka is No. 14.
Their head-to-head is 1-1.
The challenge for 22-year-old Sabalenka is to overcome a long week, and a player who is an icon in their homeland and who is playing her best tennis in years.
But it’s not a surprise that either player is in the final, as both of them entered the tournament in the Top 5.
Aryna Sabalenka vs Victoria Azarenka Odds
|Player||Spread||Moneyline||Total at Bet365|
| Aryna Sabalenka (BLR)||+3.5 (-120)||+162||O 21.5 (-110)|
| Victoria Azarenka (BLR)||-3.5 (-120)||-200||U 21.5 (-125)|
Odds taken Oct. 25
Sabalenka’s Marathon Week
Sabalenka was already making travel plans in her mind when she went down 0-6, 0-4 (with break points against her serve to down 0-5) against Sara Sorribes Tormo in Friday’s Ostrava quarterfinal.
Then she remembered she was still in the doubles.
She pulled off a remarkable comeback: Sabalenka won the next 12 games, and the match.
The previous day, Sabalenka came back from being two breaks of serve down in the third set against Coco Gauff to win.
And then she spent another two hours on court winning the doubles with partner Elise Mertens of Belgium.
Sabalenka Getting Her Money’s Worth in Ostrava
|Event||Round||Opponent(s)||Score||Time on Court|
|Doubles||R1||Maleckova/Skamlova||5-7, 6-1, [10-5]||1h28|
|Singles||R2||Coco Gauff||1-6, 7-5, 7-6 (2)||2h13|
|Doubles||QF||Ostapenko/Zvonareva||7-6 (5), 5-7, [10-8]||2h07|
|Singles||QF||Sara Sorribes Tormo||0-6, 6-4, 6-0||2h02|
|Singles||SF||Jennifer Brady||6-4, 6-4||1h15|
Total time on court this week for Sabalenka? 10 hours, 34 minutes.
For Azarenka, it’s six hours and 38 minutes – three singles and one doubles match, with only one set lost in singles.
And unlike Sabalenka, no doubleheaders.
No Contest in New York
The compatriots met in the second round of the US Open, when it was still far from evident that Azarenka would make a renaissance run to the final.
Sabalenka was simply not there that day; Azarenka finished her off in an hour and seven minutes.
Marathon Duel in 2019
The first time they met, Azarenka had not yet rounded back into the form she’s displayed since the return after this year’s shutdown.
The battle was won by Sabalenka, who went on to tear through the WTA Tour’s Asian swing as she won in Wuhan and Zhuhai to end the season.
Last Match of 2020 for Azarenka
Not that she wouldn’t give it all anyway, with the opportunity to win a title.
But this will be the final match of Azarenka’s 2020 season. She has already confirmed she will not play the final WTA Tour event in Linz, Austria. She can leave it all out there.
Her opponent will have both singles and doubles on Sunday.
For Sabalenka, who generally plays a lot and is better both physically and mentally when she does, Linz remains in two weeks.
Aryna Sabalenka vs Victoria Azarenka Head to Head Statistics
|22 (May 4, 1998)||Age||31 (July 30, 1989)|
|Minsk, Belarus||Birthplace||Minsk, Belarus|
|6||WTA Singles Titles||21|
|0||Grand Slam Singles Titles||2|
|No. 12||Current Ranking||No. 14|
|No. 9 (Feb. 3, 2019)||Career High Ranking||No. 1 (Jan. 29, 2012)|
|$6,720,310||Career Prize Money||$32,314,888|
Big Return Meets Big Serve
Sabalenka’s game is built around her serve, one of the most powerful in the women’s game. And her second serve – the stroke that wins and loses you matches – is high quality as well.
But Azarenka showed in New York she can handle it, especially if it’s not firing at peak level.
Sabalenka won just four of her 15 second-serve points in that match (gifting five of them on double faults). She won just 52 per cent of her first-serve points.
Azarenka had five break point chances, and converted them all.
Aryna Sabalenka vs Victoria Azarenka – Previous Meetings
|2020||US Open||R64||6-1, 6-3||Azarenka|
|2019||US Open||R128||3-6, 6-3, 6-4||Sabalenka|
Respect for her Elders?
Azarenka has the edge in experience generally – and specifically at indoor events. This is only the third indoor main draw of Sabalenka’s career.
The big question is whether Sabalenka will be at 100 per cent physically, after so much tennis this week.
It’s notable that during their last meeting on a momentous occasion – at the US Open last month – Sabalenka crumbled.
It feels like the Minsk pecking order will be respected Sunday, although Sabalenka could well take a set in defeat.
Best bet: Azarenka in three sets (+300)
Stephanie gets the straight dope from the tennis insiders. On court, she has represented her country internationally. A BA in journalism led to years on the MLB beat and a decade covering tennis globally. She’s written for Postmedia, the Guardian, the New York Times and also publishes OpenCourt.ca.