CANCUN, Mexico -- The stage is set for the GNP Seguros WTA Finals Cancun, where the elite eight of the Hologic WTA Tour's 2023 season will go head-to-head at the Estadio Paradisus to crown a new champion at the tour's season-ending championships.

"It's always a pleasure to see everyone in Mexico again," co-tournament director Gustavo Santoscoy Jr. said during Friday's Opening Gala and Draw Ceremony at the Kempinski Hotel. "We've become a real family. To give the Mexican fans a chance to see the best players in the world means so much to us."

The theme of family ran throughout the gala. Dignitaries and familiar faces were scattered throughout the festivities. After opening remarks from WTA CEO and Chairman Steve Simon, WTA President Micky Lawler and the state's first female governor, Mara Lezama, the players were introduced onstage as the singles and doubles draw was made.


Olympic gold medalist Monica Puig was on hand to help with the draw ceremony, earning big smiles and hugs from her former colleagues onstage. 

The singles draw set an intriguing pair of groups. World No.1 Aryna Sabalenka will renew her 2023 rivalry No.4 Elena Rybakina, who is making her tournament debut. Guadalajara champion Maria Sakkari, who took her spot in the field after Karolina Muchova's withdrawal, will go toe-to-toe with No.5 Jessica Pegula for the 10th time in their careers.

"I’m just very happy to be here and be given the opportunity," Sakkari said after being drawn into the Bacalar group. "It’s going to be very tough, two big hitters and one tough player. It’s going to be great, I’m just super excited."

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Three Grand Slam champions landed in the Chetumal group, with No.2 Iga Swiatek, No.3 Coco Gauff and No.7 Marketa Vondrousova. Ons Jabeur, who stunned in a flowing Elie Saab dress, will also battle it out in the Chetumal group. 

"I'm coming in with a lot of confidence," said Gauff, who has lost just two matches since the start of August. "Last year, I didn't do so well, so it's nothing but up."


The best quip of the night belonged to The Netherlands' Demi Schuurs, who, alongside doubles partner Desirae Krawczyk, qualified for her fifth WTA Finals. Semifinalists in Fort Worth last year, the duo are seeded fifth this year.

In September, Schuurs successfully qualified for her first singles main draw on the WTA Tour at the Guadalajara Open. Asked to reflect on their greatest achievement this season, Schuurs quickly grabbed the mic. "Winning two singles matches to qualify in Guadalajara," she said, throwing a triumphant fist to the sky as the crowd roared with delight. 

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With the draws completed and dinner served, the players and their teams took in an exhilarating Mayan Fire Dance and other traditional performances before closing out an early night.