At the start of the week, Aryna Sabalenka called it a “miracle” that she even qualified for the WTA Finals. But now, after a semifinal upset, her miracle has extended into the singles final in Fort Worth.
No.7 seed Sabalenka stunned World No.1 Iga Swiatek 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 in a 2-hour and 7-minute semifinal showdown Sunday night.
Sabalenka will now meet No.6 seed Caroline Garcia on Monday night (8 p.m. CT) for the WTA Finals singles trophy.
No matter what happens, Sabalenka and Garcia will finish the year inside the Top 5.
Turning around the rivalry: Former World No.2 Sabalenka won her first meeting with Swiatek a year ago at the 2021 WTA Finals, but since then, Swiatek had the upper hand in their rivalry, winning their four prior encounters this year.
However, Sabalenka came close to another win in the US Open semifinals, leading Swiatek by a break in the third set before Swiatek turned that match around along the way to the title.
This time, Sabalenka earned her third career victory over a reigning World No.1. Sabalenka’s two previous wins over a World No.1 both came against Ashleigh Barty, at 2019 Wuhan and 2021 Madrid.
3 - Aryna Sabalenka is the 3rd player to win against #1, #2 and #3 in the world in a tournament in 2000s after Venus Williams at the WTA Finals 2008 (v Safina, Jankovic and S. Williams) and Serena Williams in Miami 2002 (v Hingis, V. Williams and Capriati). Trips.@WTA_insider pic.twitter.com/94R9qVvWUO— OptaAce (@OptaAce) November 7, 2022
Sabalenka says: "Overall, I was really calm on the court," Sabalenka said after her win. "The mindset was just I wanted to make her work for it. I didn't want to give her another easy win, like she got [in the] first three wins.
"That's the mindset I had during this match. I think that's why I wasn't really going for all those winners, all those aces, but I think because of the mindset, I made it a lot."
Swiatek season shutdown: Swiatek’s \year comes to a close with a 67-9 win-loss record and eight singles titles. But her 15-match winning streak against Top 10 players ended with her loss to Sabalenka.
Both Swiatek and Maria Sakkari finished the round-robin portion of the event with 3-0 records. The last time a 3-0 round-robin player failed to make the final at the WTA Finals was 2015, where Maria Sharapova and Garbiñe Muguruza lost in the semifinals.
Match moments: After saving two break points in the opening game, Sabalenka took charge with two early breaks for 4-1. She cruised to the one-set lead from there, converting three of her five break points. Sabalenka was helped by five aces in the opening frame, negating her five double faults.
However, in the second set, Swiatek cleaned up her game and came out firing with her forehand, leaping to a 4-0 lead. As it turned out, both of her wings were on point in the second set, as Swiatek leveled the match with a backhand winner down the line on her first set point.
But Sabalenka regained control in the third set with gusto. Just as she had in their US Open semifinal, Sabalenka went up an early break to take a 3-1. Sabalenka rolled from there, knocking off huge serves on the last two points to notch the upset.