GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- No.4 seed Maria Sakkari booked her spot in her first semifinal at the Akron WTA Finals Guadalajara, defeating top seed Aryna Sabalenka 7-6(1), 6-7(6), 6-3 on the final day of round-robin play for the Chichén Itzá group. The victory boosted Sakkari to 2-1 in group play and dropped Sabalenka to 1-2, meaning the 26-year-old Greek star will join group winner Paula Badosa in advancing to Tuesday's semifinal. 

As the second qualifier out of the Chichén Itzá group, Sakkari will face Teotihuacán winner Anett Kontaveit for a spot in the final. 

"Obviously my season is not finished yet, but this tournament has been very successful after today's win," Sakkari said. "I'm just very, very happy that I still show good emotions on court, I still play with my heart even though it's been 11 months since we started this season. I'm just going to enjoy tomorrow's match."

Sakkari entered the match looking to snap her four-match losing streak to the Belarusian. Sakkari managed to win a total of just eight games over four sets in their past two matches, at 2021 Abu Dhabi and 2020 Doha. 

Tale of the match: After an opening exchange of breaks, it was Sabalenka who proved more successful keeping the pressure on Sakkari's serve. But the Belarusian struggled to convert to break open the set. Sakkari faced down at least one break point in her first five service games and successfully held in all but two, while converting on both break points she earned on Sabalenka's serve. 

"I think that it was my first night match and that played a huge role in my game of how the ball really felt," Sakkari said. "I only practiced once before the tournament at night, so it was kind of new for me. I don't know, it was weird because Aryna, she's very long, she's very tall, it's tough to get serves through her. Once I got a pattern that worked well, I just kept doing what I felt was working. I just went for it."

Sabalenka was broken when serving for the opening set at 5-3, and Sakkari successfully forced a tiebreak, saving a set point in her final service game. The tiebreak was the tale of two serves, as Sakkari fired three aces, Sabalenka misfired two double-faults, and the Greek raced away with a 7-1 win. 

The second set unfolded similarly. Sabalenka served for the set twice at 5-4 and 6-5, but the resilient Sakkari once again forced a tiebreak. This time Sabalenka stood tall, finally sealing the set on her fourth set point to take the tiebreak 8-6 to force a deciding set after over two hours of grueling physical play.

Turning Point: Sabalenka's serve would ultimately be her undoing in the final frame. After hitting nine double-faults combined in the first two sets Sabalenka struck 10 in the third set, bringing her match total to 19. From 1-3 down, Sakkari broke Sabalenka twice to earn a break advantage and reeled off the last five games sealing the victory after 2 hours and 47 minutes by breaking Sabalenka for the eighth time to secure her seventh straight win over a Top 5 opponent. 

"I think it was a rollercoaster match from both of us," Sakkari said. "I was up a break, then she was up a break. It was just a matter of who took the chances. I think at the end I just played with my heart and fought well, just turned things around."

Stat of the Match: Sabalenka came into the WTA Finals as the tour leader in double-faults, striking 296 during the regular season. The Belarusian struggled to find her second serve throughout the week in Guadalajara, striking 42 double-faults across three matches.

"I just couldn't find my rhythm," Sabalenka said. "The whole match I was really struggling with my serve. On some moment I found it, and on some moment I couldn't do anything with my serve. It's a tough match. Just crazy how bad I was serving in the last matches, especially this week. I guess a lot of work in the pre-season I will do."

Sakkari on snapping her four-match losing streak to Sabalenka: "Obviously last time we played was in Abu Dhabi this year," Sakkari said. "I think my level is different today than back then. Obviously she has been having a very good season.

"I think I'm just closer to them now. My ranking shows that, my results shows that. It's just that I'm really getting closer to them. I proved to myself and everyone that I can beat them like I did today."

Sakkari looks ahead to facing Kontaveit: "I told her in Moscow that I'm going to see her here," Sakkari said. "I'm very glad that she's here because she's a very nice person and she deserves it.

"But it all comes down to obviously who plays a better match tomorrow. I'm going to fight for it, do whatever I can to advance to the final. I just really want to enjoy tomorrow's match because the atmosphere here is just unreal."

"I'm not going to have so much time to rest. My fitness level is, I believe, one of the best on tour, without being arrogant, but I believe fitness is one of my strengths. I'll do everything to recover. If Anett is better tomorrow, it's too good. But I'll try to recover and just take advantage of the good things I felt today on the court."