Aryna Sabalenka returned to the WTA’s top 10 on Monday at the expense of Serena Williams after the Belarusian captured her eighth career title in Linz at the weekend.

The 22-year-old Sabalenka finished the season in style with a straight-sets victory over her doubles partner Elise Mertens in Sunday’s final in Austria.

She traded places with Williams, who dropped one spot to 11th and hasn’t played since pulling out of the French Open with an Achilles injury.

Ashleigh Barty remains clear at the top despite skipping both the US and French Opens following the season’s resumption after the coronavirus shutdown. Her last match was at the Qatar Open in February.

Belgian Mertens moved up one place to 20th, climbing above last year’s Roland Garros runner-up Marketa Vondrousova.

Earlier, Sabalenka saw off the second-seeded Mertens 7-5, 6-2 to tie Simona Halep for most tournament triumphs in the coronavirus-disrupted season.

The usual year-ending WTA Finals in China were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, leaving the event in Austria as the last of the campaign.

Sabalenka has now won nine straight matches after also taking the title in Ostrava last month.

“This is something amazing,” Sabalenka told wtatennis. “I don’t want to say anything, and just cross my fingers so more wins come to me.

“This is the perfect end to my season, so I can be happy and relaxed for my holidays and pre-season. I’ll keep working to make sure I can maintain this level next season.”

It was the 22-year-old’s eighth career title, but she has still never reached a Grand Slam quarter-final.

“At Grand Slams, I would think about how big they are, and put a lot of pressure on myself,” she admitted.

“I’ll try not to do that again, and know that everything I have to do is just go on court, bring my level, and give everything I have. That’s what I’ll focus on, on what I can control.”

WTA top 20:

1. Ashleigh Barty (AUS) 8,717 pts

2. Simona Halep (ROU) 7,255

3. Naomi Osaka (JPN) 5,780

4. Sofia Kenin (USA) 5,760

5. Elina Svitolina (UKR) 5,260

6. Karolina Pliskova (CZE) 5,205

7. Bianca Andreescu (CAN) 4,555

8. Petra Kvitova (CZE) 4,516

9. Kiki Bertens (NED) 4,505

10. Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) 4,220 (+1)

11. Serena Williams (USA) 4,080 (-1)

12. Belinda Bencic (SUI) 4,010

13. Victoria Azarenka (BLR) 3,426

14. Johanna Konta (GBR) 3,152

15. Garbine Muguruza (ESP) 3,016

16. Madison Keys (USA) 2,962

17. Iga Swiatek (POL) 2,960

18. Petra Martic (CRO) 2,850

19. Elena Rybakina (KAZ) 2,696

20. Elise Mertens (BEL) 2,650 (+1)

(With AFP inputs)