Belarusian teenager Aliaksandra Sasnovich comes under the spotlight for March. Their Fed Cup player enjoyed a highly successful month on the ITF Pro Circuit putting in performances that would see her climb to a new career high ranking.
Her first two tournaments, of the three she played over the course of the month, were $10,000 tournaments held in Netanya. Both tournaments in this Israeli city took place at the Municipal Tennis Club on outdoor hard courts; Sasnovich’s favoured surface.
This month marked her return to ITF Pro Circuit play for the first time since losing the doubles final in Eilat on 1 February. Following that defeat her on court action was devoted to Fed Cup ties where she played a big part in securing round-robin wins over Georgia and Austria before defeat to Croatia. All three ties were staged in Israel, which, fortunately for Sasnovich, fitted in perfectly with her Pro Circuit schedule.
For the opening tournament of the month, Sasnovich was named the number two seed in singles and also in doubles with Polina Leykina with whom she was partnering for the first time.
Her title quest kicked off against Swiss qualifier Sandy Marti who put up a fight in the first set before going down 64 61. The following two rounds saw Sasnovich knock-out two French players with the combined loss of just five games! The second of these was a quarterfinal defeat of the sixth seed Irina Ramialson 62 61.
18-year old Sasnovich then conceded four games in a comfortable 64 60 semifinal win against Russia’s Polina Monova to set up a final with another French player in fifth seed Amandine Hesse.
Ahead of this singles final, the fifth of her career, Sasnovich and her Russian partner Polina Leykina were involved in the doubles final.
After two relatively straight forward wins, Sasnovich and Leykina had to dig deep to come from behind in a tense semifinal with the Romanian pairing of Diana Marcu and Patricia Tig. A place in the final was earned with a 57 64 [10-6] win.
Opposing the duo in the title match were Natela Dzalamidze and Aminat Kushkhova, the third seeds from Russia.
The Russians raced into a one set lead, dropping just two games but, just as they had done in the semifinal, Sasnovich and Leykina fought back hard and levelled the match with a 7-4 tiebreak win before claiming the title in the match tiebreak [10-8].
This doubles triumph set Sasnovich up nicely for her singles final the following day.
Sasnovich was yet to lose a singles final in her career on the ITF Pro Circuit and she maintained this 100 per cent record as she claimed a fifth title with a straight sets 62 75 victory.
Staying at the same venue for her second tournament this month, Sasnovich was again named as the number two seed in singles but this time, with a change of partner to Polina Monova, as the top seed for the doubles event.
In an identical start to the previous week, Sasnovich began her singles campaign with a 64 61 defeat of a qualifier and then registered another straight sets win to reach the quarterfinal.
Her quarterfinal opponent was Polina Monova, the eighth seed. The two met in the semifinal the previous week, which had seen Sasnovich victorious 64 60, and are doubles partners during this week!
Monova was to fall to Sasnovich once again and with an eighth successive straight sets win, Sasnovich moved into the semifinal and soon made it nine wins without loss of a set as, having just defeated her current doubles partner, she eliminated her partner from the previous week, Polina Leykina, who was seeded sixth.
The final would see her face a third straight seeded opponent but first, as she had the previous week, Sasnovich had a doubles final to play.
Top seeded Sasnovich and Monova took on the Chinese twin sisters, Jia Xiang and Jia Jing Lu, who were the number two seeds. Sasnovich and Monova were playing a tournament together for the first time and in contrast the twin sisters on the other side of the net were contesting a career 15th ITF Pro Circuit final.
Despite the many final appearances which had brought them seven titles, the Lu sisters had actually lost the last four finals they had played in the last six months. This was soon extended to five losses as Sasnovich and Monova wrapped up a surprisingly one-sided final 61 62.
With the doubles title now under her belt Sasnovich could prepare for the singles final the following day as she looked to win back-to-back singles and doubles titles.
Standing in her way of this achievement was the fourth seeded Russian Polina Vinogradova.
Remarkably her opponents in the previous two rounds were also called Polina and had lost the opening set to Sasnovich 63; this was to be repeated in the final too.
Vinogradova though hit back to take the second set and end Sasnovich’s run of 19 set wins in singles play this month.
The deciding set was closely contested by the two players but it was Sasnovich who emerged victorious and added the singles title to her growing collection. Her 63 36 64 win also maintained her career record in singles finals which now increased to six wins from six finals.
The four titles won in Netanya were to be her last as an 18-year old and she took some time out for her birthday before returning for the final week of March at a $25,000 tournament in Tallinn, Estonia.
At this tournament Sasnovich was taking part in the qualifying event, as the eighth seed, just days after her 19th birthday. She showed no signs of post-birthday celebration tiredness as she easily qualified, winning both her qualifying matches without loss of a game!
Her reward for qualifying was to be drawn to face Ukraine’s Kateryna Kozlova, the number one seed, in round one.
Sasnovich looked to be on her way out when losing the first set 62 but she soon turned this around. First she levelled the match with an impressive 61 second set win before pushing on for the win with a 7-5 tiebreak triumph in the deciding set to cause the upset of the round.
Another three set victory followed in round two before a return to straight sets winning ways enjoyed during her two weeks in Netanya. First a quarterfinal 62 64 defeat of Stephanie Vogt, the sixth seed from Liechtenstein and then posting a 62 75 semifinal win over Poland’s Magda Linette to reach yet another final.
Unlike in Netanya, Sasnovich was not involved in the doubles event so her preparations for the title match took place only on the practice court.
The main draw had begun against a seeded Ukrainian and that was how it was to end too as facing her was fourth seed Nadiya Kichenok.
The first set was very tight and required a tiebreak to settle it. Sasnovich dominated in the tiebreak and took the set with a 7-3 win. No such drama in the second set though as her 100 per cent record remained intact as she dropped just two games and won her third singles title of the month.
Her triumphs this month would also see her climb the WTA rankings to a new career high of 274 for her first appearance within the Top 300.