Belarusian star Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka beat Jessica Pegula 6-3, 7-5 on Friday to advance to the semi-finals of the WTA Finals as Tunisia’s runner-up Ons Jabeur was eliminated.
Fifth-seeded Maria Sakkari of Greece beat Jabeur 6-2, 6-3 on Friday night to finish unbeaten in the round robin.
Her victory secured Sabalenka second place in the Nancy Richey group and a place in the knockout stages.
Seventh-placed Sabalenka did her part with the win over third-placed Pegula.
With so much at stake, Sabalenka was called up early on.
“I’m just happy that I was really focused from start to finish and was able to finish this match in straight sets,” she said.
Sabalenka, who improved to 4-1 against Pegula, took charge early and took full advantage of four double faults in Pegula’s opening set.
The second set was a closer affair, with Pegula quickly erasing an early break as Sabalenka suddenly found herself struggling on serve.
Despite seven double faults in the second set, Sabalenka managed to stay close and broke for a 5-3 lead to put the pressure back on Pegula.
Pegula, who secured her place in the season-ending elite event with her triumph in Guadalajara in October, responded with a break of serve and leveled the set at 5-5, with Sabalenka digging deep to win both last games and polish it. cut into two sets.
“It’s tough but it’s tennis,” Pegula said. “You have a good week and then you come back to it the next. There are a lot of highs and very high lows.
“You finish the year well and then I come here, I lose all my games,” added Pegula, who noted that the number of her losses this week in Fort Worth was the same as she had endured in “about three month”.
Jabeur, a Wimbledon and US Open runner-up this year, could still have slipped through to the semis with a straight-sets win over Sakkari.
But she didn’t peek as a “fearless” Sakkari secured a victory in just 69 minutes.
As the group winner, Sakkari has guaranteed that she won’t have to face number one ranked Iga Swiatek in the semi-finals.
Instead, she will face Caroline Garcia or Daria Kasatkina, who will square off on Saturday with group runner-up Tracy Austin on the line.
“I think I just have to keep doing what I’ve been doing,” Sakkari said in an on-court interview. “I trust myself. I’m just fearless on the pitch.”
Sabalenka will have the unenviable task of facing Swiatek in the semi-finals. The Polish star, whose eight titles this year include the French Open and the US Open, reigned at number one for 30 weeks.
Swiatek has won the last four of his five career encounters, including a US Open semifinal in September.
Results Friday at the WTA Finals in Fort Worth, Texas (x denotes top seed):
Aryna Sabalenka (x7) vs Jessica Pegula (USA x3) 6-3, 7-5
Maria Sakkari (GRE x5) against Ons Jabeur (TUN x2) 6-2, 6-3