With eye on No. 1, Iga Swiatek into WTA Finals championship

League: Tennis

Posted on: 06 Nov, 2023 at 01:52 AM

Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

Iga Swiatek kept her push to end the year atop the WTA rankings alive Sunday, sweeping world No. 1 and top-seeded Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus 6-3, 6-2 to advance to the championship match of the WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico.

The No. 2 seed and second-ranked player in the world will face American Jessica Pegula in the championship on Monday. If Swiatek wins, she will finish the year ranked No. 1 in the world. If Pegula beats the 22-year-old from Poland, Sabalenka will remain No. 1 and finish the year atop the rankings for the first time in her career.

Swiatek, who lost the No. 1 ranking two months ago, is looking to end the year as the world's top-ranked player for the second year in a row.

"I feel like it's still a long way away because I feel like tomorrow's match will be the toughest one," Swiatek said when asked if she was thinking about the No. 1 ranking. "We can talk about it tomorrow after the match. I'm just going to continue doing what I've been doing in (recent) days. I can't truly tell you the keys for tomorrow. I'm going to work on that tonight."

Sunday's semifinal began with Swiatek holding a 2-1 lead in the first set and Sabalenka serving with the fourth game tied at 30-30. Rain suspended the match on Saturday night, pushing the finish to Sunday and bumping the final to Monday.

Swiatek immediately took advantage Sunday, winning the first two points of the day to break Sabalenka and take a 3-1 lead in the set. The two held serve the rest of the set and the first two games of the second set.

That's when the duo played the game of the match, if not the tournament, playing 16 points with Sabalenka staving off three break points. But she could not do it a fourth time and Swiatek broke to grab control of the game.

Swiatek again broke Sabalenka to take a 5-2 lead before serving out for the match.

As for Swiatek's opponent, Pegula went 3-0 in group play and is 4-0 in the tournament. According to the WTA, Pegula will become the first player to face the Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4 ranked players in the same tournament since the rankings began in 1975.

Swiatek has dropped only 19 total games in her 4-0 run in Mexico, the fewest by a player to make the championship match since 2007, per the WTA. She is also the youngest finalist since Petra Kvitova (21) and Victoria Azarenka (22) in 2011.

--Field Level Media