Facing her strongest opponent in a crucial game, Iga Swiatek displayed her incomparable skill as she defeated Aryna Sabalenka, the top-ranked player, and advanced to the WTA Finals’ final for the first time.
Swiatek expressed immense joy following her 6-3, 6-2 victory, stating that it was the most challenging and enjoyable match she has played at this tournament.
Sabalenka had been a win away from securing the year end No 1 ranking for the first time in her career, but with her victory, Swiatek will end the year as the best player in the world for the second straight year, if she clinches the title in Cancún.
In the championship match, Swiatek will compete against fifth seed Jessica Pegula, who advanced to the biggest final of her career by defeating Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-1 on Saturday. Both players have yet to lose a set in their four matches leading up to the final.
Considering they have established themselves as the defining players this year, this season-ending tournament would have been incomplete without Sabalenka and Swiatek laying into each other one last time. Their rivalry has been an excellent spectacle this season, with Sabalenka defeating Swiatek in an instant classic Madrid Open final the last time they met. While Swiatek arrived in the match with a 5-3 lead in the head-to-head, Sabalenka has beaten Swiatek in consecutive WTA Finals, including in last year’s semi-final.
The duo were supposed to meet on Saturday, but they were only able to finish three games before the weather interrupted and the match had to be rescheduled for Monday. They reconvened on Sunday evening for the semi-final, with Swiatek holding a slim lead of 2-1 and 30-30 while serving. Despite a week of terrible weather, the wind and rain had subsided, creating ideal playing conditions for both competitors.
Given the chance to compete on her own conditions rather than just struggling to endure the conditions, Swiatek excelled. Her performance and determination were at an all-time high when the match resumed. She promptly secured a break of serve by winning the first two points of the day.
After securing the first break and gaining momentum, Swiatek maintained her intensity until the very end. She consistently struck the ball with precision, pushing Sabalenka out of her comfort zone on the court and dominating the baseline. Swiatek’s exceptional returns also added pressure to Sabalenka’s serve.
When Sabalenka succeeded in positioning herself above the baseline, Swiatek’s exceptional agility enabled her to prolong rallies and pressure Sabalenka into hitting an additional shot.
“It was a challenging week, so I am pleased to have improved today. Despite the score being 6-3, 6-2, it was still a tough match. Every point and game mattered and were closely contested,” stated Swiatek.
After her impressive performance last year, dealing with the high expectations and pressure this season has been a challenge. However, Swiatek has maintained a strong level of play, defeating top opponents and achieving a successful record. On Monday, she will aim to end the season with one last victory.