Aryna Sabalenka’s win in the WTA Finals, which was delayed due to rain, has put her in a strong position to secure the top ranking for the tour’s final season.
Sabalenka, the number one seed, secured a spot in the semi-finals at Cancún, Mexico by defeating the fourth-seeded Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan with a score of 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.
If Sabalenka defeats the second-seeded Iga Świątek of Poland, she will secure the top spot in the ratings for the year.
Sabalenka, the reigning Australian Open champion, wound up with a 2-1 record in the Bacalar Group, coming in second behind fifth-seeded Jessica Pegula (3-0). The other semi-final will feature Pegula and third-seeded Coco Gauff in an all-American encounter.
In the last two games of the Chetumal Group, Świątek finished with a 3-0 record by easily defeating sixth-seeded Ons Jabeur from Tunisia with a score of 6-1, 6-2. Gauff secured second place in the group by coming back from behind to win 5-7, 7-6 (4), 6-3 against seventh-seeded Markéta Vondroušová from the Czech Republic.
Rybakina was defeated in two out of three matches, ultimately placing third in the Chetumal Group with a record of 1-2. Maria Sakkari of Greece, seeded eighth, ended up with a record of 0-3.
On Thursday, play was halted with Sabalenka leading Rybakina by a score of 6-2, 3-5. When play resumed, Rybakina won the second set, but Sabalenka quickly took control in the third set and faced no opposition.
Sabalenka expressed her joy in overcoming a difficult match in challenging circumstances, stating that she was extremely pleased with her victory regardless of the challenges she faced.
Gauff only managed to win one out of 11 points on her second serve and a mere 39% of her overall service points during the first set against Vondroušová. However, her performance improved as the game progressed.
Despite making 38 unforced errors compared to Vondroušová’s 25, Gauff still managed to secure the victory. This difference was not balanced out by Gauff’s 31-25 lead in winners.
Gauff expressed that she felt the need to hit aggressively through the court. She acknowledged that her opponent is a skilled and unpredictable player, and that it can be challenging to face her when allowing her to control the pace and move them around. Gauff also mentioned that she has played against her three times before, giving her insight into how to approach the match.
“However, when dealing with wind, it can be challenging to play as aggressively as desired due to unpredictable bounces and a moving ball. I am satisfied with the adjustment I made and avoided getting too frustrated with my misses. Ultimately, I hope the outcome will be worth the effort.”
Pegula has won two out of three matches against Gauff in their previous encounters. In 2023, Świątek and Sabalenka have also played two matches, each winning one, resulting in Świątek having a 5-3 overall record against Sabalenka.