Facing off against her biggest competitor in a crucial match, Iga Swiatek showcased her unmatched talent as she defeated Aryna Sabalenka, the top-ranked player in the world, to secure a spot in the WTA Finals final for the first time.
After securing a 6-3, 6-2 victory, Swiatek expressed her joy by stating, “I am extremely happy. I believe that was the most challenging and enjoyable match I have played at this tournament.”
Sabalenka was only one win away from claiming the top spot in the year-end rankings for the first time ever. However, with her win, Swiatek will maintain her position as the world’s number one player for the second consecutive year, as long as she wins the title in Cancún.
In the ultimate round, Swiatek will compete against fifth seed Jessica Pegula, who beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-1 on Saturday to advance to the most significant final of her professional career. Both players have yet to lose a set in their four matches leading up to the final.
As the dominant players of the year, Sabalenka and Swiatek were essential to this season-ending tournament. Their matchup was a must-see event, as their rivalry has been a highlight of the season. In their last encounter, Sabalenka emerged victorious in an intense Madrid Open final. Although Swiatek held a 5-3 advantage in their head-to-head record, Sabalenka has defeated her in two consecutive WTA Finals, including last year’s semi-final.
The duo was originally planned to play on Saturday, but due to the weather, they were only able to finish three games. The rain forced them to postpone the final until Monday. They reconvened for the semi-final on Sunday evening, with Swiatek slightly ahead at 2-1 and 30-30 on serve. Despite a week of terrible weather, the wind and rain had subsided, allowing both players to play more freely.
Given the chance to showcase her skills and not just struggle against the conditions, Swiatek excelled. Her performance and energy were exceptional as soon as the match resumed, as she quickly gained an advantage by winning the first two points.
After securing the first break and gaining momentum, Swiatek maintained her intensity until the end. She consistently struck the ball with precision, pushing Sabalenka to uncomfortable positions on the court and dominating the baseline while capitalizing on any short balls. Swiatek’s superb returning also kept Sabalenka on edge during her serves.
Whenever Sabalenka was able to gain control of the baseline, Swiatek’s exceptional agility enabled her to extend rallies and pressure Sabalenka to hit an additional shot.
Swiatek stated that the week has been challenging, so she is pleased to have performed even better today. Despite the final score being 6-3, 6-2, each point and game was crucial and closely contested.
Following her impressive debut season in the previous year, handling the anticipation and stress this season has presented its challenges. However, Swiatek has remained remarkably steady, defeating top competitors and achieving a notable record. As Monday approaches, she aims to cap off the season with one last victory.