STUTTGART -- World No.1 Iga Swiatek advanced to her second straight Porsche Tennis Grand Prix final after No.4 Ons Jabeur was forced to retire down 3-0 in the semifinals with a left calf injury.
Swiatek will face No.2 Aryna Sabalenka in Sunday's final. The Australian Open champion dropped just three games against Anastasia Potapova to advance to her third straight Stuttgart final.
The much-anticipated first meeting of the season between Swiatek and Jabeur ended prematurely when the Tunisian began to struggle with her left leg after the first game of the match. After chasing down a ball on the last point of the first game, Jabeur called a medical timeout and received treatment and tape on her calf.
"The third point, I don't know what happened," Jabeur said. "I was really excited to play Iga today, it's always a fun matchup between us. I wish her the best luck for the final.
"I'm sorry guys, I really tried to run, but Iga never makes it easy."
Jabeur played on for two more games but was visibly hampered in her movement and serve. After Swiatek held for a 3-0 lead, Jabeur consulted with the physio one more time before crossing the net to shake Swiatek's hand. The loss ended Jabeur's seven-match win streak. She will now race to prepare for her title defense next week at the Mutua Madrid Open.
"I don't know what Ons' situation is, but I really respect the fact that she came out and she tried and she wanted to see how it's going to go," Swiatek said.
"I told her we're probably going to play the Roland Garros final, so we'll see each other there. She's a fighter, so she's going to be back quick. I just hope it's nothing serious."
No.1 Swiatek vs. No.2 Sabalenka: Sunday at 1 p.m.
On Sunday, Swiatek will face Sabalenka in a rematch of last year's Stuttgart final, which Swiatek won 6-2, 6-2. She leads the head-to-head 4-2, but Sabalenka snapped her four-match losing streak last fall by winning their last meeting at the 2022 WTA Finals, 6-2, 2-6, 6-1.
Swiatek is bidding to become the first player to defend the title since Angelique Kerber in 2016. The 22-year-old has yet to lose a match in Stuttgart and extended her tournament record to 7-0.
Sabalenka has also enjoyed consistent success at the Porsche Arena. She is into the final for the third consecutive year. In 2021, she finished as the runner-up to Ashleigh Barty (2021), and in 2022, she fell to Swiatek. For the third straight year, Sabalenka will face a reigning No.1 for the title.
1 & 2 - The #1 (Iga Swiatek) and #2 (Aryna Sabalenka) will face each other in a WTA final for the first time since the AO 2018 (Halep-Wozniacki) and for the first time on clay since RG 2013 (S. Williams-Sharapova). Luxurious.#PorscheTennis | @PorscheTennis @WTA @WTA_insider pic.twitter.com/bgYs82kITM— OptaAce (@OptaAce) April 22, 2023
"Aryna is a great player and she's in great shape," Swiatek said. "I have to be ready to play my best tennis. For sure, this surface is -- we both like clay court -- but it's a little bit faster than most of the clay courts. I'm gonna have to be ready on my return and just for the fast pace."
Sabalenka won just four games off Swiatek in the final last year, but Sabalenka insists it's a different scenario this time. Swiatek may be No.1, but Sabalenka is now a reigning Australian Open champion who sits atop the Race to the WTA Finals Leaderboard. The serving woes that derailed her last season are gone, replaced by a steely and calm mentality that has allowed her to notch a tour-leading 23 wins this season.
"Last year I was struggling a lot with a lot of things, especially my serve," Sabalenka said. "This year I feel like a different player, different person right now. So I feel I'm much calmer on court."
4 - Aryna Sabalenka has reached four finals in 2023 (Adelaide, Australian Open, Indian Wells and Stuttgart): equalling already her highest tally in a single year (2018 and 2019). Overflowing.#PorscheTennis | @PorscheTennis @WTA @WTA_insider pic.twitter.com/2W2igdTEEz— OptaAce (@OptaAce) April 22, 2023
Stuttgart will be Sabalenka's fourth final of the season (Adelaide 1, Australian Open, Indian Wells) and Swiatek's third (Doha, Dubai). A win on Sunday would be the 13th title for either player.
Reflecting on her return from a 45-day break from competition with a rib injury, Swiatek said she couldn't be happier with how she has handled the week in Stuttgart.
"Even yesterday's match [against Pliskova], even though the beginning wasn't easy, second set and third set I played much better and I improved then," Swiatek said. "That was a great experience to have. The first one against Qinwen as well.
"I'm just happy that I can play good tennis, even though I wasn't practicing a lot and even though my break was pretty long. I'm happy that I could just be here and enjoy this. Honestly, I have only positive thoughts."