Aryna Sabalenka ousted world number one Iga Swiatek 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 on Sunday to set up a clash with Caroline Garcia at the season-ending WTA Finals.
Seventh-placed Sabalenka avenged a three-set defeat to Poland’s Swiatek in the US Open semi-finals, where Swiatek went on to claim a second Grand Slam title of the year following a victory at Roland Garros.
France’s sixth-placed Garcia beat Greece’s Maria Sakkari 6-3, 6-2 in the other semi-final.
Sabalenka, who called it a “miracle” when she qualified for the event after mid-season struggles, fired 23 winners, including a dozen aces, with only 19 errors cannot be forced.
Swiatek, whose remarkable season included eight singles titles and 37 straight wins, saw her 15-match winning streak against the top 10 come to an end.
“I just want to make sure that every time she plays against me, she knows that she really has to work hard to get the win,” said Sabalenka, who lost all four games against Swiatek this year. “Just because of this thought, I was able to play at such a great level tonight.”
Swiatek was broken just once as she won all three round-robin matches, but was broken three times in Sunday’s opening set when Sabalenka started.
Swiatek seemed to have reset, however, as she took a 4-0 lead in the second before Sabalenka managed to fend off a break point to keep it 4-1. Although Sabalenka broke the serve to shorten the score to 4-2, Swiatek regained the break and quickly served to end the game in each set.
As in their US Open clash, Sabalenka had an early break in the third inning.
This time, however, she was able to create the advantage, breaking once more to take a 5-1 lead and finishing in impressive style with an ace and a winner.
“Aryna just got better, you can see that,” said Swiatek, whose often-fearful forehand proved unreliable. “In the second set I wanted to overpower her, but in the third set I felt that was not my style of play. I feel like I took too much risk. And third, she definitely took her chance and she served really well. “
But Swiatek, who has counted four WTA 1000 titles along with two Grand Slams of her eight in 2022, admits she doesn’t regret having to go on vacation.
She said: “It is very difficult to see the finish line but you still have to be motivated and ready for every match. “This season has been very intense and I am very proud of myself that I was able to play well to the end. I’m glad it’s done.”
On Monday, Sabalenka and Garcia will renew a confrontation that has seen them split four encounters with a score of 2-2.
Garcia, who has bolstered the standings with three titles this season, played against Sakkari, which ended up winning after 75 minutes.
She got the decisive break in the first set to lead 4-2 and finished the set with a game of love, then led 4-0 in the second.
Garcia’s first double error of the game gave Sakkari a break in the sixth game, but Garcia responded with an ace and took the lead 5-1 with a painful backhand on the sidelines.
Sakkari tried to force Garcia to serve, and she hit it on the second point when Sakkari hit a serve into the net.
Garcia, who could barely get to his knees to catch his breath after a thrilling three-set win over Daria Kasatkina on Saturday to take the final spot in the semifinals, had plenty of energy for a leaping celebration. on the field at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth.
“This morning, obviously, the leg is a bit heavy,” Garcia said. “But I was excited, emotional and won yesterday to be in the semi-finals of the WTA Finals.”
The event was moved to Texas due to continuing pandemic-related issues with the Chinese city of Shenzhen, which was originally hosted, as well as the WTA’s dispute with China over its status. by chess player Peng Shuai.
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