On Sunday, Aryna Sabalenka defeated world No. 1 Iga Swiatek 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 to set up a championship match with Caroline Garcia at the WTA Finals, which will conclude the tennis season.
Sabalenka, who is ranked seventh, exacted revenge on Swiatek, who she had lost to in three sets in the US Open semifinals before Swiatek won her second Grand Slam championship of the year following her triumph at Roland Garros.
In the other semifinal, France’s sixth-ranked Garcia defeated Greece’s Maria Sakkari 6-3, 6-2.
After struggling in the middle of the season, Sabalenka considered it a “miracle” that she made it to the tournament. She hit 23 winners, including 12 aces, and just 19 unforced errors.
The amazing season of Swiatek, which includes eight singles victories, witnessed the end of her 15-match winning run against top-10 competitors.
Due to the unreliability of her normally formidable forehand, she made 26 unforced mistakes in addition to 26 wins.
When Sabalenka grabbed control of the opening set on Sunday, Swiatek, who had only been broken once in winning all three of her round-robin matches, was broken three times.
However, Swiatek appeared to have recovered after jumping out to a 4-0 lead in the second set but Sabalenka held for 4-1 after surviving a breakpoint. Swiatek recaptured the break and quickly served it out to tie the match at one set apiece, despite Sabalenka breaking to reduce the lead to 4-0. Swiatek recaptured the break and quickly served it out to tie the match at one set apiece after Sabalenka broke to trim the lead to 4-2.
Similar to their match in the US Open, Sabalenka took the lead early in the third.
Her ability to maintain the lead this time around allowed her to break for a 5-1 edge and finish the match in commanding fashion with an ace and a service victory.
Garcia and Sabalenka will resume their rivalry on Monday after splitting their last four meetings 2-2.
Garcia, who has climbed the standings with three victories this year, put on a display against Sakkari, winning in just 75 minutes.
She took the match’s deciding break in the first set to take a 4-2 lead, finished the set with a love game, and then exploded to a 4-0 lead in the second.
In the sixth game, Garcia’s first double fault of the match handed Sakkari a break opportunity, but Garcia replied with an ace and a blistering backhand that kissed the sideline to take a 5-1 lead.
On her second match point, Garcia won after Sakkari fired a service return into the net, forcing Sakkari to hold so that Garcia would have to serve it out.
Garcia had enough of energy for a skipping, jumping celebration on the court at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth following an intense three-set victory against Daria Kasatkina on Saturday to earn the final semi-final slot. Garcia could only kneel to gather her breath after the match.
Due to ongoing pandemic-related concerns with the Chinese city of Shenzhen, which was originally scheduled to host, as well as the WTA’s disagreement with China about the status of player Peng Shuai, the event was relocated to Texas.