Aryna Sabalenka’s win in the WTA Finals, which was delayed due to rain, puts her on the brink of securing the top spot in the tour’s season-ending rankings.
Sabalenka, the highest-ranked player, secured a place in the semi-finals at Cancún, Mexico by defeating Kazakhstan’s fourth-seeded Rybakina 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.
If Sabalenka defeats Poland’s second-seeded Iga Świątek, she will secure the top spot in the ratings for the year.
Sabalenka, who currently holds the title of Australian Open champion, ended the Bacalar Group with a record of 2 wins and 1 loss, placing second behind the fifth-seeded Jessica Pegula who had a perfect record of 3 wins. The upcoming semi-final will see Pegula facing off against third-seeded Coco Gauff in an all-American showdown.
During the last two games of the Chetumal Group, Świątek achieved a 3-0 victory by easily defeating sixth-seeded Ons Jabeur from Tunisia with scores of 6-1 and 6-2. Gauff came in second place in the group after making a comeback and winning with scores of 5-7, 7-6 (4), 6-3 against seventh-seeded Markéta Vondroušová from the Czech Republic.
Rybakina was defeated in two out of her three matches, ultimately coming in third place in the Chetumal Group with a record of 1-2. Greece’s eighth-seeded Maria Sakkari ended up with a record of 0-3.
On Thursday, play was suspended with Sabalenka leading Rybakina 6-2, 3-5. When the match resumed, Rybakina won the second set, but Sabalenka quickly gained momentum and secured the victory after breaking serve in the third set.
Sabalenka expressed that the battle was difficult and the conditions were challenging. She is extremely pleased that she was able to secure the victory regardless.
In the first set against Vondroušová, Gauff only won one out of 11 points on her second serve and 39% of her total service points. However, her game improved as the set progressed.
Despite making 38 unforced errors compared to Vondroušová’s 25, Gauff still managed to come out with the victory. However, her 31-25 advantage in winners was not enough to make up for the difference in errors.
Gauff stated that she had a strong desire to hit through the court. She described her opponent as a skilled and challenging player, and acknowledged that playing at her pace and allowing her to control the movements can be difficult. This was Gauff’s third time playing against her, so she was aware of the challenges she would face.
“However, it can be difficult to maintain a high level of aggression in windy conditions due to unpredictable bounces and ball movement. I am pleased that I was able to adapt and not become too frustrated when I missed shots. In the end, the potential reward makes it worth it.”
Pegula has won 2 out of the 3 matches she has played against Gauff. They have faced each other twice this year, with one win for each player. In 2023, Świątek and Sabalenka have also played two matches, resulting in one win for each. This gives Świątek a career record of 5 wins and 3 losses against Sabalenka.