No.2 Swiatek beats No.1 Sabalenka in WTA Finals semis
Second-ranked Iga Swiatek defeated world No 1 Aryna Sabalenka 6-3, 6-2 on Sunday to reach the title match of the WTA Finals, where she will face fellow unbeaten Jessica Pegula.
By downing the reigning Australian Open champion, Swiatek denied Sabalenka a victory that would have clinched the year-end top ranking for the 25-year-old from Belarus.
Instead, reigning French Open champion Swiatek of Poland can claim the year-end world No 1 spot for the second consecutive season by defeating American Pegula in Monday's championship match.
"I feel like it's still a long way away because I feel like tomorrow's match will be the toughest one," Swiatek said. "We can talk about it tomorrow after the match. I'm just going to continue doing what I've been doing."
Sabalenka overtook Swiatek for the top ranking two months ago but would keep it only if Pegula wins.
Pegula beat compatriot Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-1 in an hour on Saturday to reach the WTA Finals championship match, stretching her overall win streak to nine matches.
Swiatek owns a 5-3 career edge over Pegula in their rivalry but the American has won two of their three meetings this year, at the United Cup and in an August semifinal on Montreal hardcourts. Swiatek beat Pegula in this year's Doha final.
"I can't truly tell you the keys for tomorrow," Swiatek said. "I'm going to work on that."
The final was delayed to Monday due to rain that played havoc with the week's schedule at the outdoor hardcourts in Cancun, Mexico – including stopping Swiatek and Sabalenka only three games into their semifinal on Saturday night.
Swiatek was ahead 2-1 on serve when play resumed Sunday and the Pole went on the grab the only break of the opening set.
Swiatek broke early in the second set and broke again for 5-2 with an overhead smash, then held serve to win on her first match point on a service winner.
Sabalenka had beaten Swiatek in last year's WTA Finals semifinals and they had split two prior meetings this year, both on clay.