Sabalenka stuns Swiatek and faces Garcia for WTA Finals title

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Aryna Sabalenka ended top-ranked Iga Swiatek’s 15-game winning streak against top-10 opponents, winning 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 on Sunday night for a place in the WTA Finals championship.

The stunner put Sabalenka in the final against Caroline Garcia, who beat Maria Sakkari 6-3, 6-2 and has a chance to be only the second Frenchwoman to win the title at the season-ending event.

Swiatek, the French Open and US Open champion and trailing leader with eight wins on the tour, has three round-robin wins, dropping just 13 games to give her the longest winning streak against the top-10. opponents since Steffi Graf won 17 in a row in 1987.

Just like that, it was over when the 21-year-old Pole lost the last five games to a player she had beaten in all four encounters this season.

Sabalenka did not reach the semi-finals with the No. 1 ranking in the eight-man event last year. She was the seventh ranked player and showed just how comfortable she was on the temporary indoor hard court at Dickies Arena. Nine of his 10 career wins have come on hard courts.

“I just want to make sure that every time she plays me she knows she has to really work hard to win,” Sabalenka said. “It’s only because of that reflection that I was able to play at this incredible level tonight.”

Swiatek fell behind to a break in the final set with two wide forehands before another gave him two breaks.

Defending doubles champions Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova also qualified for the title match with a 7-6(5), 6-2 semifinal win over Lyudmyla Kichenok and Jelena Ostapenko.

Just 24 hours after beating Daria Kasatkina in a tense 80-minute third set to secure the final semi-final spot out of group play, Garcia needed just 74 minutes in total for a fourth win. career against a top-five opponent this season.

Garcia never trailed, dominating Sakkari, fifth, in winners (21-8) and ace (6-0). Amélie Mauresmo (2005) is the only French woman to have won the WTA final.

“I don’t know,” Garcia said when asked where she found the energy to dominate after the quick turnaround. “Yesterday I was a little tired, but that was not unusual after such a big game.”

Garcia left group play in both WTA Finals appearances. The 29-year-old lost in the semi-finals in the eight-man event five years ago, which was also the last time a player older than Garcia reached the semi-finals (Venus Williams).

“I guess I’m five years older, maybe five years younger,” said sixth-ranked Garcia, who was No. 74 around this time last year. “You try to learn from everything. I have a good team behind me, who support me when I doubted myself a bit.

Sakkari was also among five players to reach the semi-finals their first two times since the round-robin format was reintroduced in 2003. She lost in the semi-finals last year.

Garcia used a 120mph ace to help erase a break chance for Sakkari and extend their lead to 4-0 in the second set.

Garcia’s sixth and final ace – and tournament-leading 14th – responded to a double fault that gave Sakkari another break point. Garcia closed out that game with a 5-1 lead on the way to a career-high 3-0 against Sakkari.

Sakkari has won three straight sets in the tournament after picking up just one win over a top 10 opponent this season.

The 27-year-old Greek never recovered after losing her first set of the week, finishing with 11 more unforced errors (19) than winners.

“Without taking anything away from him, I played a very average match on my side,” said Sakkari, who only qualified for the WTA Finals at the last event of the regular season. “I was not sharp. I had no energy.

The event was moved to Texas from China due to concerns over the safety of Peng Shuai, a Grand Slam doubles champion who accused a former government official of sexual assault. Coronavirus restrictions also played a role in the decision. This is the first WTA final in the United States since 2005.

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AP Tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports




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