Aryna Sabalenka overcame Elena Rybakina 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in a rain-delayed group match on Friday to advance to the semi-finals against Iga Swiatek.
Aryna Sabalenka overcame Elena Rybakina 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in a rain-delayed group match on Friday to advance to the WTA Finals semi-finals against Iga Swiatek. The Belarussian, who finished second in her group behind unbeaten American Jessica Pegula, maintained her bid for the year-end number one position with a two-day triumph. She had won the first set but was losing in the second when the match was called off Thursday night due to rain.
She and Rybakina returned to the outdoor hardcourts in Cancun 16 hours later, where fourth-ranked Rybakina of Kazakhstan smoothly served out the second set to tie the match in minutes.
In the opening game of the third set, Australian Open winner Sabalenka dug deep to halt Rybakina’s momentum, surviving nine deuces and two break points to hold service.
In the fourth game, she broke Rybakina with a pair of powerful forehands.
Swiatek then defeated sixth-seeded Ons Jabeur 6-1, 6-2 in 67 minutes to win first in her group with a perfect 3-0 record.
Coco Gauff defeated Wimbledon winner Marketa Vondrousova 5-7, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 to go to the semi-finals, her spot confirmed after Swiatek’s victory.
Gauff will meet fellow American Pegula in the semi-finals, but the match between Sabalenka and Swiatek will be the main attraction.
If Sabalenka wins, she would end the year as world number one, but if Swiatek wins, she might reclaim the top spot if she goes on to win the title.
It’s a replay of last year’s semi-final, which Sabalenka won 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 in Fort Worth, Texas.
This season, the two have split their two meetings on clay. Swiatek, the reigning French Open winner, won the final in Stuttgart, while Sabalenka triumphed in Madrid.
Gauff and Pegula’s match will be the first all-American semi-final in the premier season-ending event since the round-robin format was reinstated in 2003.
On Friday, players were faced with blustery gusts and sporadic rain.
Gauff shook off multiple rain delays, using an aggressive approach to claim the second-set tiebreaker and continuing to attack in the third.
“Obviously, in the wind, it’s tough to be as aggressive as you want, because the bounces are weird and the ball was moving,” Gauff said. “So I’m glad I made that adjustment and didn’t get too frustrated when I missed. You pay the price for hopefully a good reward.”