To advance to the WTA Finals final, Aryna Sabalenka defeated top-ranked Iga Swiatek on Sunday night, snapping her 15-match winning run against opponents ranked in the top 10, 6-2, 2-6, 6-1.
The unexpected victory put Sabalenka up against Caroline Garcia, who defeated Maria Sakkari 6-3, 6-2, and has a chance to become just the second Frenchwoman to win the season-ending competition’s championship.
Swiatek, who has eight tour victories and is the undisputed leader with the French Open and US Open titles, easily won three round-robin matches while dropping just 13 games, giving her the longest winning streak against top-10 opponents since Steffi Graf won 17 straight matches in 1987.
It ended abruptly when the Polish player, age 21, who had defeated her opponent in all four of their previous encounters, lost the last five games.
In the eight-player competition last year, Sabalenka finished first but failed to advance to the semifinals. As the seventh-ranked player, she displayed her comfort on the Dickies Arena’s makeshift indoor hard court. Hard courts have been the scene of nine of her ten career triumphs.
When she plays against me, Sabalenka stated, “I simply want to make sure she understands that she truly needs to fight hard to obtain a win.” “I was only able to play at this incredible level tonight due to this mindset,” the player said.
With two wide forehands in the last set, Swiatek trailed by one break before losing two breaks with a third.
With a 7-6(5), 6-2 semifinal win over Lyudmyla Kichenok and Jelena Ostapenko, defending doubles champions Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova also progressed to the championship match.
Garcia required just 74 total minutes for a career-best fourth victory against a top-five opponent this season, which came less than 24 hours after she defeated Daria Kasatkina in a nail-biting 80-minute third set to earn the final position in the semifinals out of group play.