Sabalenka inching closer to her 1st title

Los Angeles - Rising star Aryna Sabalenka moved another step closer to her first title after easing past fifth seeded Julia Goerges 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) in the semi-finals of the Connecticut Open

The 20-year-old Belarusian has rocketed up the WTA Tour rankings this year, moving from being just inside the top 75 in the world at the end of 2017 to a career high 25 this week. 

"I played a lot of three sets this year," said Sabalenka, who has reached her third final of 2018. "I'm more fresh, ready for the final." 

Sabalenka has now beaten Goerges both times they have played. She won 73 percent of her first serve points and broke Goerges three times in Friday's one hour, 45 minute match. 

"She's a great player," Sabalenka said. "It's really tough to play against her because she's a big server. Sometimes it's impossible to take her serve. I mean no chance. 

"This is just about the mental game. You have to be focused 100 percent on every point." 

Sabalenka booked her spot in Saturday's final where she will face Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro who spent just 34 minutes on the court after Monica Puig of Puerto Rico quit with an injury. 

The two were tied 4-4 in the first set when Puig packed it in. 

Sabalenka will be in her fourth career final, but first ever meeting against the 29-year-old veteran Suarez Navarro in the final tune-up event before next week's US Open. 

"It's not the first time (final), so I know what I have to do tomorrow," she said. 

Sabalenka had to come from behind to win the second set against Goerges. She had her serve broken in the first game but got the break back to level at 4-4. 

The pair went to a tiebreak and Sabalenka clinched it in style by winning seven consecutive points after losing the first three points. 

"I tried a lot of different things today," said Goerges. "I can be very pleased with that. I did the best that I could. 

"I was fighting big-time. But there's only one winner." 

In the other semi, Suarez Navarro had just rallied from a break down to get to 4-3 when Puig took a long medical timeout. 

Puig returned but was visibly hampered, losing the next game to get to 4-4. That's when she made the decision to call it a day, leaving the court in tears. Puig blamed her loss on an abdominal strain. 

Suarez Navarro has benefitted from a biblical-like chain of events to get into her first WTA final of 2018. 

After a hard fought first round win over Barbora Strycova, she got a walkover from British No. 1 Johanna Konta in the second round. Then two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova retired in their quarter-final and finally reigning Olympic champion Puig pulled out halfway through the first set of the semis.

Results from Connecticut Open WTA tournament in New Haven on Friday:

Semi-final

Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) bt Julia Grges (GER x5) 6-4, 7-6 (7/3)

Carla Suarez (ESP) bt Monica Puig (PUR) 4-4 retired

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