Sabalenka aiming to thwart Swiatek at WTA Finals, keep top spot
Aryna Sabalenka has enjoyed a stellar 2023 and the Belarusian will head into the season-ending WTA Finals on Sunday in Cancun, Mexico, aiming to fend off Iga Swiatek and secure the year-end world number one ranking.
Australian Open champion Sabalenka leapfrogged four-time major winner Swiatek and claimed the top ranking for the first time after the U.S. Open last month. She is in control of her destiny heading into the finale.
Sabalenka will hold onto her spot if she goes undefeated in round-robin play or makes the final, but the 25-year-old said the tournament also represented a springboard for the next year.
"It's a super-great season, I think the best season in my life so far," Sabalenka told reporters. "Hopefully this is just the beginning: with every year I'll play better and the results will be better. I'll use this year as a motivation for me to keep working hard, to keep pushing and see where is my limit are."
Swiatek, whose 75-week reign at the summit came to a halt at Flushing Meadows, recovered from the disappointment to capture a tour-leading fifth title of the year at the China Open and will not go down without a fight.
A final charge could help Swiatek - who trails Sabalenka by 630 points - reclaim the number one spot, but the Polish player said she would not dwell on that.
"The main thing that I want to avoid is forgetting that this was also a good season and I still won some great tournaments. I won a Grand Slam," said French Open champion Swiatek, who will be making her third consecutive WTA Finals appearance."
Joining the mix are US Open champion Coco Gauff and fellow American Jessica Pegula, who are also partners in the doubles competition.
Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova, Kazakh world number four Elena Rybakina, Tunisian world number seven and Greek world number nine Maria Sakkari will also challenge the field as they look to add gloss to their seasons.
The 29 October to 5 November Finals, which features the top eight singles players and doubles teams in the world, is returning to Mexico after a gap of one year. The 2021 edition was held in Guadalajara.