Seventh-seeded Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka upset top seed Iga Swiatek of Poland 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 on Sunday night to secure a spot in the championship match of the WTA Finals at Fort Worth, Texas.
Sabalenka recorded 12 aces against Swiatek’s one during the semifinal match, while also notching 23 winners. Swiatek had 26 winners but posted just as many unforced errors, as the World No. 1 was dispatched in 2 hours, 7 minutes.
“It was a great match and it was (an) unbelievable atmosphere,” Sabalenka said following the match. “It was amazing playing in front of (the fans), and I just really wanted to stay for another match. Just, thank you a lot for the support. It was amazing.”
Swiatek got off to a fast start in the second set, winning the first four games. Sabalenka responded with a pair of wins, but Swiatek recovered to earn the victory.
After splitting the first two games of the decisive third set, Sabalenka took total control of the match, rifling off five straight wins to coast to the finish line.
Sabalenka, 24, will face French sixth seed Carolina Garcia in the final on Monday.
Garcia booked a spot in the championship match with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over fifth-seeded Maria Sakkari earlier Sunday.
The Frenchwoman had a 21-8 edge in winners during the semifinal match while continuing her strong recent play. She had a 6-0 advantage in aces and converted 4 of 5 break points.
Garcia, 29, was ranked as high as No. 4 in the world in 2017 before her career took a downturn due to injuries. But she played her way into this season’s WTA Finals by winning three tournaments — including the 1000-level Western Southern Open near Cincinnati — and a stirring run to the U.S. Open semifinals.
“You try to learn from everything,” Martinez said after Sunday’s win. “We got some tough experiences the last couple years, but I’ve got a big team behind me and supporting me, staying positive even when I was negative about myself. It’s definitely a great year. A lot of things happened that I didn’t think would happen.”
Sakkari, from Greece, recorded just eight winners and made 19 unforced errors. Martinez had 17 miscues.
–Field Level Media