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Elise Mertens vs Aryna Sabalenka Samsung Open tennis live: Crafty Mertens meets powerful Sabalenka in Lugano final

Andrew Hendrie in WTA Tour 15 Apr 2018
  • Elise Mertens vs Aryna Sabalenka is live from Lugano at 2.15pm local time on Sunday (1.15pm BST)
  • First meeting between the pair
Elise Mertens (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Second seed Elise Mertens targets a third WTA title on Sunday at the Samsung Open when she faces rising star Aryna Sabalenka in the Lugano final.

Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka are the last two women standing at the inaugural Samsung Open in Lugano as the pair battle it out for the title on Sunday. It’s been an extremely challenging week - both mentally and physically - for all players competing in the Swiss city, with persistent rain causing chaos for tournament organisers and forcing players to play two matches in a day on Saturday in order to maintain the original schedule. Mertens is aiming to win her first WTA title outside of Australia, while Sabalenka is gunning for her first piece of WTA silverware after breaking into the top 100 last year. Mertens and Sabalenka take to court at 2.15pm local time on Sunday (1.15pm BST).

Mertens and Sabalenka couldn’t have experienced more differing routes in securing their respective spots in the Samsung Open final on Saturday. Mertens survived two marathon three-setters against Mona Barthel and Vera Lapko and spent almost five hours in total on court, while Sabalenka needed just over two hours combined to ease past Camila Giorgi and Stefanie Voegele to secure her spot in her second career final.

After edging Barthel 6-4 5-7 7-6(0) in the quarter-finals, Mertens returned to court soon after to face Vera Lapko, dispatching the Belarusian qualifier 6-1 4-6 6-4 to reach her second final of the season.

“It’s mentally tough [playing two singles matches in one day] and also for the body, which sometimes didn’t want to move that well today,” Mertens said.
"I pulled through against a really good player. She’s still young and a hard-hitter, so I had to stay aggressive. I’m happy with my performance today.”

Meanwhile, rising powerhouse Sabalenka didn’t waste any time in making her second career final, crushing Giorgi 6-3 6-0 before ending the title hopes of home favourite Voegele 6-4 6-2.

"It was a tough today, because of two matches in one day - especially against players with two different kinds of play," Sabalenka said after beating Voegele.
"[Giorgi] plays really fast, and the second match, she tried to spin, slice, hard and slow and whatever. It was a tough day - a tough week because of the rain...I try to not care about the conditions and play as fast as I can before the rain! I just focus on every ball, every game, every shot - but it was really tough, and cold."

Aryna Sabalenka (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
Sabalenka continues to grow from strength to strength on tour, cementing herself as one of the sport’s brightest young talents. After starting 2017 at No. 146 in the world, Sabalenka has climbed to at least a projected mark of No. 47 courtesy of her run to the final in Lugano, while her breakout season last year included helping Belarus reach their first Fed Cup final, while she also made the semi-finals in Tashkent and her first WTA final towards the end of the year in Tianjin, where it took Maria Sharapova to stop her in a quality title match.

The 19-year-old has continued to make solid progress in 2018, reaching back-to-back quarter-finals to kick off the season in Shenzhen and Hobart, while she was a bit unlucky to draw Ash Barty in the opening round of the Australian Open. Sabalenka also made the third round of Indian Wells before making the final here in Lugano as she continues her rapid rise up the rankings.

Mertens is another player who has enjoyed a meteoric climb to the top of women’s tennis over the last 12 months, with the Belgian improving her ranking from 120 at the start of 2017 to a current projected career-high of No. 18 after reaching the final in Lugano. Mertens won her first WTA title in Hobart in January last year and successfully defended it earlier this season, while she also finished runner-up to Elina Svitolina in a series of solid results as she established herself on the WTA Tour throughout last year.

The 22-year-old made a big breakthrough to start 2018 as she experienced an outstanding Australian Open, conquering the likes of Daria Gavrilova, Alize Cornet, Petra Martic and Svitolina to reach her first Grand Slam semi-final, where she was knocked out by eventual champion Caroline Wozniacki. Mertens went through a tough patch after Melbourne, winning just two matches throughout February and March, but she’s well and truly back into the swing of things here in Lugano.

This will be the first meeting between Mertens and Sabalenka (who will also face off in the doubles final after their singles showdown) - and it promises to be a fascinating contrast of styles. Mertens is a very intelligent player and loves utilising all areas and angles of the court, while Sabalenka is already one of the most explosive players on tour and will simply try and overpower the Belgian with her booming groundstrokes. Fatigue might also be a factor - Mertens was on court for three hours longer than Sabalenka on Saturday and bases a lot of her game around movement. If Sabalenka is in the zone and teeing off from the baseline, Mertens might find it hard to chase down all of her powerful groundstrokes. I’m leading on the side of Sabalenka to collect her first WTA title in Lugano.

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Elise Mertens vs Aryna Sabalenka Samsung Open tennis live: Crafty Mertens meets powerful Sabalenka in Lugano final

Second seed Elise Mertens targets a third WTA title on Sunday at the Samsung Open when she faces rising star Aryna Sabalenka in the Lugano final.

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