Tennis-Sabalenka stops qualifier Noskova to seal Adelaide title

ADELAIDE (Reuters) -Aryna Sabalenka warmed up for the Australian Open by capturing her 11th WTA Tour title with a 6-3 7-6(4) win over teenaged Czech qualifier Linda Noskova in the Adelaide International 1 final on Sunday.

The big-hitting Sabalenka made a sluggish start to the WTA 500 event this week before hitting her stride and she was flying in the first set against the giant-killing 18-year-old, taking charge of rallies from the baseline to grab the advantage.

Noskova, who had defeated ailing top seed Ons Jabeur in the semi-final after wins over the higher-ranked Daria Kasatkina and two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, took the tight second set to a tiebreak where Sabalenka switched gears.

A crosscourt winner set up three matchpoints for Sabalenka and the world number five double-faulted before closing out the contest with a booming serve for her first title in almost two years and a boost before the Jan. 16-29 Australian Open.

“I’m super happy with another title. It was great week. I enjoyed every moment in Adelaide. So just super happy with my performance this week,” Sabalenka, who bagged her first title since Madrid in 2021, told reporters. “I almost forgot how it feels to have the title.”

The Belarusian said she was looking forward to the year’s first Grand Slam after reaching the round of 16 in 2022.

“I just feel that I’m ready to show my best and I’m ready for a big fight,” Sabalenka said. “Again, you never know what’s going to happen. I just want to control what I can and just do my best.”

GAUFF TRIUMPHS IN AUCKLAND

American Coco Gauff also made a title-winning start to her season, comfortably beating junior Roland Garros champion Rebeka Masarova 6-1 6-1 in rain-affected Auckland Classic final.

The top seed did not drop a set all week en route to the third crown of her career and first since the 2021 Parma title.

“It’s been great,” Gauff said. “Honestly a great week for me despite the rain; I can’t ask for a better start to my season.”

Gauff said the triumph was great for her confidence before the Australian Open.

“You never know how your first week is going to go, it could be good or terrible,” she said. “But it’s been a great week.”

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Gerry Doyle)

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