In-form Sabalenka to face Kudermetova in Abu Dhabi final

In-form Sabalenka to face Kudermetova in Abu Dhabi final
Aryna Sabalenka aims to cap her winning streak with a victory in the final against Veronica Kudermetova. (File/AFP)
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Updated 13 January 2021

In-form Sabalenka to face Kudermetova in Abu Dhabi final

In-form Sabalenka to face Kudermetova in Abu Dhabi final
  • Sabalenka needed just 61 minutes to wrap up her 6-3, 6-2 success over the ninth-seeded Maria Sakkari

ABU DHABI: World No. 10 Aryna Sabalenka says she’ll do everything she can to keep her winning streak alive after she posted a 14th consecutive victory in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday to reach her third final in as many tournaments.

Sabalenka needed just 61 minutes to wrap up her 6-3, 6-2 success over the ninth-seeded Maria Sakkari and will take on Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova in the title decider in the UAE capital on Wednesday.

The 22-year-old from Belarus, who ended her 2020 season by picking up back-to-back titles in Ostrava and Linz, completed an Arabian Gulf hat trick against Sakkari, having also defeated the Greek in Dubai and Doha 11 months ago.

The longest winning streak in WTA history was Martina Navratilova’s 74-match run in 1984.

“It’s an unbelievable number. Of course I’d like to go this far and I’ll do everything I can to keep winning, so we’ll see,” said Sabalenka of Navratilova’s record.

“I think I’m putting my focus on the right space, I’m just focusing on the right things and this helps me to, first of all, not think about all these wins and secondly to keep winning.

“I think I need to keep focusing on my game, on my movement on the court and try to do everything I can in the moment and I think that works really well with me.”

Contesting the biggest semifinal of her career, Kudermetova survived a 60-minute first set battle on her way to a 7-6 (10/8), 6-4 win over Ukrainian teenager Marta Kostyuk.

“I have a little bit more experience than Marta, she is really young, she’s 18. Today I think it was the key because I have a little bit more experience than her,” said the 23-year-old Kudermetova, who idolizes Khabib Nurmagomedov and Maria Sharapova.

The world No.  46 is through to her maiden WTA final and takes a 5-3 win-loss record against top-10 opposition into her clash with Sabalenka.

“From my side, I don’t have expectations from tomorrow because Aryna is a top-10 player, she plays unbelievably, she’s playing really well here,” Kudermetova said, looking ahead to the final.

“I think she has a bit more pressure than me because she’s supposed to win tomorrow, she already won two tournaments in a row. I think tomorrow I’ll play freely; I’ll try to play relaxed and try to enjoy my final.”

Sabalenka swept the opening three games and was untroubled until Sakkari stopped her from serving out the first set at 5-1. The Greek narrowed the gap but Sabalenka’s firepower delivered in game nine as she secured a one-set lead in just under 30 minutes.

Sakkari enjoyed a better start to the second set but Sabalenka would not relent, and the Belarusian soon earned a double-break advantage en route to victory.

“She played lights-out tennis, she gave me zero chances,” said the 22nd-ranked Sakkari.

The fourth-seeded Sabalenka fired 22 winners against a mere eight unforced errors and will be targeting a ninth career title when she faces Kudermetova in Wednesday’s final.


Transfers are out of my hands, says Liverpool manager Klopp

Transfers are out of my hands, says Liverpool manager Klopp
Updated 23 January 2021

Transfers are out of my hands, says Liverpool manager Klopp

Transfers are out of my hands, says Liverpool manager Klopp
  • Liverpool suffers alarming loss of form going five league games without a win

LIVERPOOL, UK: Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said whether any new players come in the January transfer window will not be up to him as he does not hold the purse strings.

The German may be keen for fresh blood as the champions have suffered an alarming loss of form going five league games without a win.

Thursday’s 1-0 loss to Burnley ended a 68-game unbeaten home run and left them six points adrift of leaders Manchester United — who they play in an FA Cup fourth round tie on Sunday.

Injury has deprived Klopp of key central defender Virgil van Dijk but it is up front where their previously irresistible forward have failed to fire.

It is seven hours and 18 minutes since they last found the net in the league.

“Of course somebody else is making the decisions,” he said laughing at his press conference on Friday.

“It was always like this.

“We discuss the situation pretty much on a daily basis, could we improve something or not and we make recommendations but I cannot spend the money.

“I never did.”

Klopp said he would be taking Sunday’s game at Old Trafford seriously against a side they drew 0-0 in the league at Anfield last Sunday.

Klopp left the likes of Mo Salah and Robert Firmino on the bench against Burnley although both came on eventually.

“It is a different competition and yes we want to go through and for that we have to play really well,” he said.

“United are in a good moment and have got the results so far but we are ready 100 percent.”

Klopp had said in the immediate aftermath of the Burnley match that seeing the unbeaten home run end was “a massive punch in the face.”

However, on Friday the 53-year-old said it was about looking forwwards.

“Sixty-eight matches unbeaten is an incredible number,” he said.

“I never spoke about the number (referring to the home unbeaten run) but now it is onto a new series.”

Klopp said the players should not take the blame for what did not go right against Burnley.

“We go again, no doubt about that,” he said.

“I said what I thought after the game.

“When things don’t work out as we want them to then there’s an issue.

“The issue is that I didn’t tell the boys things clearly enough.

“I have to change the way I tell the boys (these things).”